Bills in Nevada Focus on 3rd Grade Literacy, Handwriting


A bill in Nevada would look to ensure that all third graders in the state can read by the time they complete the third grade.

SB391 is currently being scrutinized by the Senate Education Committee.  The bill would require students in the state to demonstrate a proficiency in reading on a standardized test or similar alternative prior to being allowed to move on to the fourth grade, beginning in 2019.

According to testing data, 39% of third graders in the state were not considered proficient in reading last year.  This means of the state’s 36,000 third-graders, about one in three do not meet the expectations in reading abilities.  However, the state has repeatedly passed those children on to the fourth grade.

“We’re afraid of hurting someone’s self-esteem versus making sure they’re successful in life. Which is more important?” asked Sen. Don Gustavson, a rural Republican representing seven counties, who spoke in favor of Senate Bill 391 during its first hearing before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.

If the bill passes, the level for proficiency could see a change, as district lobbyist Lindsay Anderson noted that new standardized tests, Smarter Balanced Assessments, will be in place by 2019 as a result of new Common Core academic standards.  The minimum passing scores for those tests have not yet been determined by the State Board of Education.

While it is unknown how many students will earn passing scores on the new exams, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga expects it to be similar, or even lower, due to the “more rigorous” nature of the Common Core standards, writes Trevon Milliard for The Reno Gazette-Journal.

The bill would call for an additional $27 million in state funding to allow for the hiring of literacy specialists, as well as the purchasing of educational software and other professional development.

Republican Sen. Becky Harris said the state is asking the requirement of its third graders because students learn to read up through the third grade, but after that, they read to learn.

Another bill in the state, SB 287 introduced by Senator Don Gustavson, would require every student in both public and charter schools in the state to be able to read and write cursive handwriting by the end of the third grade, reports Chris Sieroty for KNPR.

Gustavson said he believes it is important to do so in order to read and understand historical documents and letters.  In addition, he said the exercise would improve upon motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

“I understand peoples’ initial (reluctance) to hearing cursive because people see it as a dying form of writing,” said Clayton Markin, legislative intern for Gustavson. “We are approaching cursive (handwriting) as more of an appropriate exercise than anything else.”