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New law proposes to hold students back if not reading by third grade

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - May 10th, 2013 @ 7:05pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A new law passed by 31 states proposed that if a child can't read by the third grade they will be held back to repeat that grade. A senator previously tried to pass a similar law in Utah.

Arizona is the state that most recently adopted the policy and in Phoenix, teachers and educators are working to make sure that students are reading at grade level.

"When we read fluently, we comprehend better," said literacy coach, Margie Hourihan.

Students that can't reach their reading level will not only be held back a grade, but according to specialists, they are almost four times more likely to drop out of school if they can't read by third grade.

"It's so important that children know how to read by the end of third grade, that they can read on grade level," said former state senator, Karen Morgan.

Morgan is the former state lawmaker who tried to pass the similar reading law in Utah. State test scores show that about 20 percent of Utah students wouldn't make that grade. Teachers supported the law as a way to get more parents involved in the student's education, but lawmakers voted it down.

"Some people felt that doing that would be punitive to children, holding them back if they can't read by the third grade," Morgan said. "But we had a lot of safety nets."

Schools now identify and send home letters to children who test low in reading so that parents are aware and can help. However, Morgan believes the movement in other states will better help child to succeed.

"It's more harmful for that child in the long run to just pass them from grade to grade to grade," Morgan said. "That is, I think, one of the most unkind things that we can do."

The Governor, Prosoperity 2020 and KSL's Read Today initiative have all set the goal to get 90 percent of students reading at grade level by the year 2020.

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