ICYMI: Put Politics Aside and Focus on the Science of Reading

Op-ed: Cooper wanted to send a message to his political opponents, even if it meant torpedoing reforms to improve reading instruction

Raleigh, N.C. — Care about kids learning how to read? Check out this timely op-ed from Terry Stoops on what he learned about Mississippi, the country’s early childhood literacy success story.

“Earlier this month, I was honored to attend ‘North Carolina and the Science of Reading,’ an event sponsored by the Charlotte-based Belk Foundation.

“It may surprise some to hear that a literacy expert from Mississippi came to North Carolina to tout the success of reading instruction in the Magnolia State. … Mississippi has made tremendous gains in reading performance over the past two decades.

“Of course, these results raise questions about how Mississippi was able to achieve these gains. Emily Hanford contends that part of the state’s success was due to its focus on the science of reading.

“The Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 would have followed suit. Sponsored by Senate leader Phil Berger, the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 would have made critical improvements to North Carolina’s Read to Achieve initiative by ensuring that educators and those who train them focus on the science of reading.

“Of course, the transformation of reading instruction in North Carolina will have to wait. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill in August.

“Cooper’s veto was somewhat surprising. The Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 was a good-faith effort to get Read to Achieve implementation back on track.

“The legislation received bipartisan support in the state House and Senate. J.B. Buxton, a Cooper appointee to the State Board of Education, had a role in drafting the legislation and spoke favorably of it.

“So why did Cooper veto the bill? News & Observer editors concluded his veto ‘put politics ahead of a Read to Achieve remedy.’

“In other words, Cooper wanted to send a message to his political opponents in the General Assembly, even if it meant torpedoing research-based reforms that have the potential to improve reading instruction for more than 400,000 children in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

“Lawmakers in Mississippi and elsewhere have put politics aside and approved legislation that advances research-based literacy instruction and teacher training in their respective states. It’s time North Carolina does the same.”

The official Medium account for N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger’s press office.

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