The Third Grade Flunking Bill: Is it Really Necessary?

by on March 7th, 2015
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COMMENTARY | Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and Tennessee are now considering legislation similar to that already passed in Oklahoma, Arizona and Indiana that forces schools to hold back children who made it to the third grade without the capability to pass state reading exams. The bill, colorfully deemed the “third grade flunking bill,” seeks to raise literacy levels in the United States by offering a more stern incentive to parents, teachers, and students to identify and address reading problems early on. The bill would legally require any student that failed the state’s reading exam by the third grade to repeat the third grad,e according to the Wall Street Journal.

A literacy study done in 2009 by the federal government found that one in seven American adults have reading skills low enough that reading packaging labels may be challenging. According to the Nation’s Report card data collected that same year, 33 percent of fourth grade students scored below basic reading skills, meaning they couldn’t interpret the meaning of some words in text or derive basic information from text. Another 67 percent scored below the proficiency level required. The 2011 update of this data saw identical scores and no improvement.

The fact that the above information alone is not enough to spur educators and parents to action is a bit scary. It shouldn’t take legislation to get the very people that should care most about the education of our youth to up the ante or reconsider their techniques. They should want their children to have the skills needed to succeed in life, and reading is undeniably one of those skills. In light of this, I as a parent, see no issue requiring students by law to actually learn in school. Current laws allow students to be progressed up to the third grade whether they pass their classes or not due to social reasons. It’s only logical then, that if educators and parents are just passing the buck to the next grade that it should stop in the same grade that those voluntary passes do. If we don’t want to be seen as a nation of idiots, then we need to stop our children from being illiterate at the very least.

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