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Should 3rd Graders be Held Back if They Fail Standardized Reading Tests?

Third graders who don't pass state reading tests wouldn't go to fourth grade, under a proposal by Washington state senators Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) and Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup)/

Senate policymakers will listen to a proposal on Wednesday, Jan. 30, aimed at closing the opportunity gap and focusing on the development of reading skills from kindergarten through third grade.

The legislation sponsored by Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup) would use reading performance on third-grade assessments to make placement and development plans. Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) is co-sponsoring the measure, which will have a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 30.

“This bill is about making sure kids enter fourth grade with the skills to be successful in school and ultimately, in life,” said Dammeier of Puyallup, vice-chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “The third grade is a pivotal point in a students’ education and it is imperative they have a strong reading foundation before moving on to fourth grade.”  

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, third-grade students scoring below basic levels in reading would be retained in the third grade and given additional support until they are ready to succeed in the fourth grade. 

“All of the research demonstrates that the earlier our students are successful in reading and math, the better their long-term academic and career results,” said Litzow, who heads the Senate’s education committee. “The goal is to put more focus on the early years when children’s minds are rapidly developing. Once our students are exceeding state reading requirements in third grade we’re bound to see the ripple effects: a narrowing opportunity gap and improved high school graduation rates.”

Starting in the 2015-16 school year, students who did not meet state reading standards would require remediation including additional research-based instruction, reduced student-teacher ratios and supplemental tutoring. 

“Our schools are fortunate to have incredible educators,” Dammeier said. “I want to make sure teachers have the resources they need. To go from below average to above average in third grade reading could change a child’s life.”

Information provided by the office of Sen. Bruce Dammeier

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