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SALT LAKE CITY -- A state senator has proposed a bill that would require elementary school students to read at grade level before they can move on to the next grade. It sounds reasonable, until you look at the numbers and realize how many Utah students wouldn't make it.
"If children can't read, they can't succeed," says Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Salt Lake City.
As a literacy advocate, Morgan knows reading is the fundamental skill for children in Kindergarten through third grade. That's why she's proposed Senate Bill 150 to end social promotion, and instead tie moving on to reading performance.
"So that the school and the parent can provide interventions and help the child get them up to grade level by the end of the year," Morgan explains.
The bill requires schools to notify parents when their kids aren't making the grade and gives them until summer to improve.
Most parents at school pickup told us reading alone shouldn't hold a child back from their peers.
"Well, not just one subject; but if it's all other subjects than just one, then I could see [that]," says parent Bonnie Anderson Brinkley.
Parent Suli Malu says, "I would be upset if they would hold my daughter or son back."
The real impact of this bill is the sheer numbers of students who wouldn't qualify. At Bennion Elementary School, for example, 69 percent of students read at proficient levels. At other Salt Lake schools, just 50 percent read at grade level. [CLICK HERE to see literacy statistics from other Salt Lake schools]
Across Utah, according to one measure, 80 percent of students read proficiently. That means 20 percent, or around 85,000 students, do not. Not all of those are K-3, but it shows how much work we have to do to ensure Utah students can read.
"If they can't read, then it's a handicap," Morgan says.