A recent story, “Third Grade a Pivotal Time in Students’ Lives,” on the NPR program, Talk of the Nation, reveals that in many states, students are given a reading test in the third grade.  Students who demonstrate proficiency on that test are deemed ready for fourth grade, but those who don’t demonstrate proficiency often are retained to give them more time to show mastery of required concepts.  Why such a drastic measure based on one test at that time in a child’s education?  The reality is “that kids learn to read until third grade, and then read to learn.”  If a student does not have adequate reading comprehension skills by the end of grade three, he or she is likely to be unsuccessful in school and often ends up in the prison system.  (See our post, “Another Reason to Encourage Your Son to Read.“)

The statistics are undeniable, but many argue that using one reading test to retain a student who did not show proficiency does more harm than good.  They argue that this policy is not effective and is mean-spirited.  Others say that it is not automatic and that parents and teachers make the decision about retention together.

Opponents of this policy say that instead of retaining students who don’t pass the test, school officials should ensure that all of the supports are in place for struggling students before they get into the third grade.  They want the following supports:

  • Homework assistance
  • Intensive tutoring in basic skills for first and second graders whose teachers say they need it
  • Counseling
  • Enrichment, such as summer programs for struggling kids
  • Mandatory preschool and kindergarten for poor kids