Credit where credit’s due

Many Nevada schools are already benefiting from the Reading Excellence Act federal grant awarded to Nevada last year. But before a certain northern Nevada legislator—or any Nevada state legislator for that matter—tries to take the credit for this you might want to consider that the legislature did not write the grant. Its hands never touched it. In accordance with the governor’s goals, the grant was written by some of Nevada’s best reading educators, with solid credentials and research to back them up.

Assemblywoman Sharon Angle, who’s running for reelection in District 26, did author a bill, AB 405, in support of the teaching of reading. Originally her bill stated that “phonics only” could be used in teaching reading in Nevada. She also attempted to add wording that would limit available reading materials for all students to those with 97 percent phonetically decodable text. That’s all we need—fewer books available to our students.

However, after consulting with advisers, and hearing that phonics was a part but certainly not the only thing students needed to read proficiently, her “phonics only” bill became a harmless but superfluous piece of legislation. In essence it said, “The State of Nevada thinks that teaching students to read is a good thing and that getting some federal money might also be pretty good.” It was unanimously approved by the legislature after the REA grant had been submitted. And who can blame them? No legislator wanted to be seen as voting against reading or snubbing additional federal funding for schools.

This is what the grant will do in Nevada, according to what the feds are putting on the REA Web site:

“Nevada will concentrate its $26,189,248 on professional development based on scientifically based reading research. The state will create a statewide network of literacy leaders and educational specialists who will focus on the six goals of phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, spelling, comprehension, reading fluency and writing. The state will also develop models for school-wide reform efforts and continued research into improved reading education. Reading Excellence LEAs (Local Education Agencies) will work with a state task force lead by university literacy researchers and professors, including Donald Bear and Shane Templeton and the Nevada Department of Education, to conduct a site-based, literacy needs assessment.”

I’m wondering how anyone could believe that this grant had anything to do with Angle’s bill especially since her bill was passed after the grant application had been submitted. It evidently had everything to do with the work of Bear, Templeton and the other scholars and educators from both the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who were involved in writing this impressive plan to improve reading instruction in Nevada’s schools.

Let’s give credit where credit is due.