Menu

Blogs About Reading

Sound It Out

Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Third grade again?

February 15, 2012

If you've been following the news, you may have read about proposed state legislation (in Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and Tennessee) that would make students repeat third grade if they can't pass the state reading exams.

Our Rocket Blast carried the story Bills Prod Schools to Hold Back Third-Graders from the Wall Street Journal. Several reports, including Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, summarize recent research on reading proficiency and subsequent high-school dropout this way:

  • One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.
  • The rates are highest for the low, below-basic readers: 23 percent of these children drop out or fail to finish high school on time, compared to 9 percent of children with basic reading skills and 4 percent of proficient readers.
  • Overall, 22 percent of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor.
  • The rate was highest for poor Black and Hispanic students, at 31 and 33 percent respectively — or about eight times the rate for all proficient readers.

Third Grade Again: The Trouble With Holding Students Back from The Atlantic includes this assessment from educational psychologist David Berliner:

"It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental," Berliner said. "Everybody supports the idea that if a student isn't reading well in third grade that it's a signal that the child needs help. If you hold them back, you're going to spend roughly another $10,000 per child for an extra year of schooling. If you spread out that $10,000 over the fourth and fifth grades for extra tutoring, in the long run you're going to get a better outcome."

What's your opinion? Do you think a retention policy based on third-grade reading results is a good idea? Has your child been retained? Have you ever retained a child? I'd love to hear your opinion.

Comments

I do not agree with the idea that retention in 3rd grade will boost literacy abilities. Latest research shows us that the key lies in providing excellent first instruction in Kindergarten and 1st grade. If extra funding was given to lower K/1 class sizes, provide more TA support, and afford qualified reading interventionists, then I believe we would see the greatest difference in reading outcomes.

I think a good strategy would be to bring back the K-1 grade level. Let's give students who need it an extra year of interventions before entering first grade.

I agree with Tenley that early intervention in the Kindergarten and first-grade classes would be better for these students. These children need literacy help years before entering the third grade. As teachers, we need to make sure our children are getting the help they need before falling too far behind.

I also agree with Tenley. As a 3rd grade teacher in a school where ELLs are roughly 60% of the class, in my opinion it isn't JUST about learning to read.... sometimes it's about learning to read in English.

We know that 95% of students who are not proficient ('at grade level') readers by the end of grade three will never become proficient readers. Therefore, we clearly need to be more pro-active in addressing delays prior to the 'point of no return.' This must include the language development which takes place before a child ever begins school, the interactions he/she has with those in their homes and communities. If we are addressing issues early on, there should be significantly fewer children struggling with reading in the later elementary years. An ounce of prevention... etc. Those who need extra support in the later elementary (and the following) years would benefit from working on modified outcomes with specialist support.

3rd grade, really? It is so sad to think that it takes SO long to notice those who struggle. Are we really that oblivious and unwilling to help until “crunch” time is upon us? I agree with everyone in this discussion. I also think that being proactive and supporting academics in as early as pre-K level are very important steps. Studies show that close to 40% of children enter kindergarten with insufficient math and language skills which automatically puts them behind target on their first day of school. Add social-emotional immaturity and, in many cases, this gap persists all the way through high school. It is extremely difficult for children to catch up once they are behind. For most of them, the gap in math and literacy skills occurs prior to kindergarten. Research shows that children who start prepared for school find it easier to stay on the mark for the rest of their school years.Having said that, those struggling 3rd-graders do not need to be held back! They need one-on-one help and they need it fast!!!

Just as No Child Left Behind legislation strives to ensure that early literacy instruction is grounded in scientifically based reading research, I believe legislators must strive to have their policies based on scientific research. Retention does not work. Early identification and 1:1 instruction will allow students who struggle to learn to read to succeed. Emphasis on decoding, fluency, comprehension, and enjoyment will do more than retention and probably do it quicker too. While the legislation means well, it needs to be reviewed and revised to achieve the goal of all students reading.

We know that 99% of students who are not proficient ('at grade level') readers by the end of grade three will never become proficient readers. Therefore, we clearly need to be more pro-active in addressing delays prior to the 'point of no return.' This must include the language development which takes place before a child ever begins school, the interactions he/she has with those in their homes and communities. If we are addressing issues early on, there should be significantly fewer children struggling with reading in the later elementary years. An ounce of prevention... etc. Those who need extra support in the later elementary (and the following) years would benefit from working on modified outcomes with specialist support.Posted by: Kathleen | February 21, 2012 05:34 PM

We need to implement a program that gets the parents involved too. Home visits to teach the parents how to read or how to read with their child are key as well. These children won't accomplish much without help at home.Adrianne Meldrum

Just holding children back without doing anything differently, such as intensive intervention with research based programs, is totally ineffective and damaging to children and the educational process.

Add comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Sign up for our free newsletters about reading

Subscribe to our blogs!      

Get the latest blog posts delivered automatically to your web page, blog or e-mail inbox.

Subscribe >

Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers
Advertisement
"There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away" — Emily Dickinson