Jimmy Kilpatrick commends Gov Bush on Reading Inatitive

Feb 2, 1996 by

The crisis at hand’/Governor wants $65 million to ensure that Texas schoolchildren learn to read
Houston Chronicle
February 2, 1996
By KATHY WALT, Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau Staff

AUSTIN – Gov. George W. Bush, citing a crisis in Texas classrooms, said Wednesday that he will target $30 million in federal funds and seek another $35 million from the Legislature to ensure that all Texas schoolchildren learn to read.

“”Our children are the faces of our future,” Bush told school administrators at the Texas Education Agency’s Mid-Winter Conference. “”So I know you share my deep concern when I say that nothing stands to disrupt that future quite like the crisis at hand: Too many Texas schoolchildren cannot read.”

The governor cited the experience of Houston teacher Nelson Brown, who last year administered a vocabulary test in which more than 150 teens were asked to define such words as mask, flatter, exercise, turnip and rut. Brown wrote about the dismal performance of the students in the Houston Chronicle.

“”What is shocking,” Bush said, “”is that there are Texas teen-agers who are so illiterate they can’t even figure out the word `rut’. Think about it: We’ve got high schoolers well on their way to getting stuck in a three-letter word that they can’t even comprehend.”

Last year, 350,000 kids, or one-fourth of those who took the state-mandated reading tests, failed, and 90,000 of those were third- and fourth-graders.

“”This is an at-risk population in the making,” Bush said.

The governor said it is “”inexcusable” that Texas spent more than $18 billion last year on public education and yet hundreds of thousands of children still cannot read.

While reading improvement will be the top priority of his administration, Bush said he will not dictate how or what schools must teach. Instead, Bush said he will set goals and hold schools accountable if they fail to meet them. He said he would use the existing system for evaluating schools and not impose new sanctions.

To help schools meet those goals, Bush said, the state will:

Target $29 million in funds from the federal Academics 2000 program to teach reading and basic skills from kindergarten through grade four. A TEA spokesman said the agency hopes to begin awarding that money in April.

Direct a $1 million federal grant to fund a center for training teachers to do a better job teaching reading skills.

Seek $35 million from the Legislature next session to fund intensive reading academies in schools.

Develop diagnostic measures to help school districts identify reading problems.

Operate a toll-free phone number for Texans to call for help or offer ideas. That number, which already is working, is 1-800-819-5713.

Make elementary reading a top priority for funding from the new Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund, a program designed to bring technology into Texas schools, libraries and hospitals.

“”My goal is for our children to read at grade level by the end of third grade, and then we must keep them reading on grade level throughout their entire public school careers,” he said, adding that that may mean some kids spend their entire school day focused on reading.

“”We do not need trendy new theories or fancy experiments or feel-good curriculum,” he said. “”The basics work.”

Bush also challenged parents to spend at least 30 minutes three times a week reading with their children.

His plan drew praise from several corners, including the conservative Texas Eagle Forum, which has been pushing TEA to move back to emphasizing phonics in reading classes. Eagle Forum has blamed educators’ emphasis on the “”whole language” approach to reading for the declining literacy of the U.S. population.

But Bush said he was not interested in how the goal is accomplished, so long as it is.

“”If drills get the job done, then rote is right,” he said. “”If

it is necessary to teach reading all day – fine by me.”

Bill Honig, a former school superintendent in California and author of “Teaching Our Children to Read,” said California also has dedicated large sums of money to improve reading. But Honig, who spoke to the State Board of Education recently, added: “”I don’t know anybody that’s been as focused” as Texas.

TEA had asked districts to submit funding proposals for programs to improve the teaching of basics in kindergarten through grade four long before the governor’s announcement. Agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe said TEA will award grants of $50,000 to $150,000 from the Goals 2000 program, based on proposals that 136 districts submitted in April.

Texas Federation of Teachers spokesman Robert Nash said that group is “”elated” with Bush’s initiative and that it ties in with the group’s concerns that too many schoolchildren are being moved ahead in grades without having mastered or passed lower level classes.

Jimmy Kilpatrick of Houston, founder of a group called the Texas Educational Task Force, which focuses on improving techniques in the teaching of reading, said he was impressed with Bush’s plan.

“”He’s taken the national leadership role on this,” said Kilpatrick , who met with Bush recently to discuss reading initiatives. “”I didn’t expect anything this strong.”



December 16, 1996
Houston Chronicle

Reading is No. 1 issue

I commend Gov. George W. Bush for making reading the No. 1 issue of his administration. The challenge facing Texas will be great, but it will succeed. The future of Texas is in today’s classrooms.

Our No. 1 public health issue today is illiteracy. The good news is that the scientific and research community has provided evidence how children learn to read and why large numbers are not learning to read.

This re-education process is unfolding, not only in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, but within school districts as well. The goal of reading is comprehension.

Research has shown that children with high levels of comprehension in ninth grade were good decoders of single words in first grade. Empirical research has proven that rapid, automatic recognition of words is important in developing an engaged student with independent reading ability and good comprehension.

Let’s get behind the efforts of our teachers, Gov. Bush, the Texas Education Agency and the Governor’s Business Council to bring high levels of academic excellence to all students in Texas.

Jimmy Kilpatrick is the director of the Texas Educational Task Force

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