Third Grade is a Magical Year

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At least when it comes to reading scores.  Last week, Time Magazine published an article entitled “Retrograde.  Is it smart to hold back third-graders who can’t read well?”

It seems there’s a new trend of holding back 3rd graders who are not reading at grade level.  Instead of moving on to 4th grade, these struggling readers repeat the year in hopes of strengthening literacy skills.

The article sited one study published last year by City University of New York that found 1 in 6 students who couldn’t read at grade level at the end of third grade didn’t finish high school by the age of 19.

This disturbing, although not surprising data, has in part led to 32 states instituting policies that specifically target third grade reading skills in an attempt to intervene before the struggling student heads off to 4th grade.  Fourteen of these states have gone so far as to require that student who don’t reach specific literacy goals be held back.

Opponents of holding kids back site research that shows kid’s who repeat grades often have less confidence and are bullied more than their peers who move up.  Some evidence shows that these factors may increase high school dropout rates.

But opponents of the opponents (or more folks in favor of holding back struggling readers) point to yet another study recently released by the Brookings Institute completed by the Harvard School of Education which indicates that kids who are held back in third grade actually perform BETTER by 8th grade than their peers who moved up at a steady pace.

What’s the answer?  The experts are clearly split.  If your child was struggling in 3rd grade would you want them held back?