Thousands Of Kids Could Be Held Back Under New Benchmarks

Last Thursday, Alabama’s state superintendent said at least 10,000 third graders in the state are at risk of being held back at the end of the current school year under the new reading requirements necessary to move to the fourth grade, the Associated Press reported.

In 2019, lawmakers passed the Alabama Literacy Act requiring all third graders to achieve specific reading benchmarks before being allowed to move to the fourth grade.

All third graders must either achieve a minimum score on Alabama’s standardized reading assessment or otherwise show they have mastered the third-grade reading standards through a portfolio of work.

State lawmakers had delayed implementing the Alabama Literacy Act until the 2023/24 school year to give schools and students the time to recover from learning losses due to the pandemic lockdowns.

In August, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said she would oppose any further delays in implementing the provision.

But as the Alabama State Board of Education approved the score on the standardized assessment that the state’s over 50,000 third-graders will need to move to the fourth grade, Superintendent Eric Mackey urged board members to set a lower score arguing that the current score could see as many as 10,000 to 12,000 students being held back.

According to Superintendent Mackey, this does not mean that all of the students who fail to meet the score will be required to repeat the third grade as some of them can attend summer school and retake the assessment exam while others can move to the fourth grade based on an assessment of their reading portfolio.

However, three members of the state school board voted against lowering the score to the level recommended by Mackey, arguing that it sent the standard too low.

The Board of Education will likely reconsider setting the score next year.

The Alabama Literacy Act also requires teachers to undergo retraining in reading education. It calls for periodic testing for kindergarten through third grade. It also provides reading coaches to assist teachers in instruction and sets up summer reading camps to help students struggling with reading.