The Pressure is on for Third Graders

The idea of summer school sounds like a life sentence to many third grade students, but what if that was the answer to America’s illiteracy issues? In this recent Huffington Post article, Julie Carr Smyth explores the positive and negative implications of the latest Third Grade Reading Guarantee program.

Education officials have implemented a new program in 10 states that requires third grade students to repeat the school year if they fail to pass the reading section of the state-wide standardized test. Unsurprisingly, the new program has received mixed reviews from students, parents and education professionals.

According to educational research, third grade is the point in which students begin to use reading to learn rather than learn to read. Professionals suggest that if students fall below the average reading level they will continue to struggle throughout their education career, which may have severe effects on behavior or socio-economic status. Therefore, their suggestion is that students should attend summer school to catch up, or in extreme cases, repeat the school year all together.

The Foundation for Educational Excellence has justified this program by stating that the benefits outweigh any negatives. According to their research findings, many high school dropouts in the United States did not reach the third grade reading levels, meaning this new program could lower the dropout rate nationwide. Not to mention the effects it would have in and out of the classroom, such as reduce the need for special classes in middle school and high school or lower the percentage of juvenile delinquents.

But skeptics are wary. Can this new program really have that much of an impact on the education system in America? Are there other factors we need to take into account? Perhaps we should examine the child’s entire situation. What are the social implications retainment could have on a child? Are there family pressures or learning disabilities that could hinder the student’s ability to learn? It would be incredible if this new program found root of the problem, but maybe outside factors play a major role in a child’s inability to excel.

Similarly, researchers at Dartmouth University are not convinced. Their studies suggest there is no crucial turning point in the third grade, and that the development of the brain’s ability to learn to read has not fully developed until a later age. Because of this, researchers believe eight years old may be too soon to give up hope.

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