By Deborah Williams
No one would argue against the fact that students need to read well in order to be successful in school and in life, and many educators acknowledge that third grade is the year when students should move from learning to read to reading to learn. Correspondent Tovia Smith reports in the article, “Schools Get Tough with Third Graders: Read or Flunk,” on the NPR show, All Things Considered, that several states have followed Florida’s lead by passing mandatory retention laws for students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Even though Florida’s third graders perform better than several states at the same grade level, many are not convinced that retention is beneficial to students. They point to the following reasons:
- Students are a year older, so it’s natural for them to perform better in grade four.
- It’s unkind to retain students; it’s better to provide resources such as tutoring over the next two years. Plus, that is a lot cheaper than spending an extra $10,000 to retain a student.
- Retention is traumatic for students, and those who were retained are more likely to become dropouts.
Proponents counter by saying, “This is not a ‘gotcha’ policy; it’s an ‘ensure-our-kids-are-ready-for-success’ policy,” says Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s education secretary.