- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A D.C. Council committee is vetting a bill Thursday that ensures third-graders are ready for fourth grade, a reflection of efforts across the country to gauge academic progress in the early years of children’s education.

Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown will hear testimony on the legislation as part of a hearing before the Committee of the Whole on reforms such as early childhood education and college preparation.

Council members Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, introduced the bill in November. The legislation proposes to assess the progress of students on the cusp of fourth grade after essential years of instruction in reading and mathematics from kindergarten to third grade.

“This is the turning point in the curriculum,” Mr. Orange said.

The bill also calls on the D.C. Public Schools chancellor to ensure that 3- and 4-year-olds are prepared for kindergarten.

The bill joins a growing list of education proposals before the council, including a bill from Mr. Brown that uses financial incentives to draw highly effective teachers to schools that need them the most.

Mr. Brown also is hearing testimony on his bills to assess students from grades four to nine and to require each high school student to take a college-entrance exam such as the SAT or ACT and apply to at least one college.

D.C. officials’ focus on the learning cycles of students — from kindergarten to third grade, from fourth grade through middle school, and high school and beyond — adds to efforts by Mayor Vincent C. Gray for education offerings among children as young as 1 to 3.

Mr. Orange said he has not spoken with the mayor about his bill but expects Mr. Gray’s support because it builds on the education “of the 10,000 children he boasts about in early childhood education.”

Mr. Orange said he drafted similar legislation during his last stint on the council during Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ administration, but the measure never went anywhere.

“This is a bill that I’ve been pushing for a long time,” Mr. Orange said. “This didn’t just come around.”

His argument has been buttressed by several states that are pushing to assess — and even hold back — third-graders who do not meet reading requirements.

At the council’s retreat Tuesday, Mr. Orange passed around a Wall Street Journal article on the subject that had been published a day earlier and listed seven states that are considering the issue.

Mr. Orange said he does not have a price tag for the proposal — he needs to “see it on paper” first — but thinks the city would save money on social safety nets or incarcerations down the road by spending a little more now to support childhood education.



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