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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

It's summer school or else for would-be fourth graders in Tennessee

A summer reading camps in Kinston, North Carolina.

Thousands of Tennessee children will be going to summer school -- or repeating third grade, reports Chalkbeat's Marta W. Aldrich.

Sixty percent of Tennessee third graders were at risk of being held back because of low reading scores on a test given in the spring. Many are taking a retest, and some are eligible for exemptions, so it's not clear how many students will be affected by the state's new retention policy.

To get promoted to the fourth grade, third graders who score as “approaching” reading proficiency must either attend a summer program with a 90% attendance rate, then show adequate growth on a test administered at the end of the program; or they must take advantage of state-funded tutoring throughout the 2023-24 school year.
Third graders who score in the bottom category of readers known as “below” must participate in both intervention programs to get promoted to fourth grade.

Tennessee's new K-3 literacy strategy led to "historic gains" in reading, announced the state education department. While only 40 percent of third graders tested as proficient in reading, that's an improvement.

English Learners who've received less than two years of English language instruction, students who already repeated a grade and students with disabilities that affect literacy are exempt from the policy. Parents of students "approaching proficiency" can file an appeal.

We'll see how many students skip summer school, reject tutoring and repeat third grade. And will summer school and tutoring be effective?

Michigan recently repealed its Read by Grade Three law, which said students more than a year below grade level in reading could be held back. The law was supposed to go into effect in 2019-20, but was paused due to the pandemic.

Now, the law requires schools to notify parents and provide some sort of extra help, which could include "read-at-home plans and in-school reading intervention in addition to regular classroom reading instruction."

Read by Grade 3 policies should start in kindergarten and continue through first, second and third grade, writes Kymyona Burk, senior policy fellow at ExcelinEd and architect of the "Mississippi miracle," in Education Next. Retention should be part of a strategy that includes "a variety of other tactics aimed at making sure students are learning to read."

In other news, a small Texas high school postponed its May graduation because only five of 33 seniors had met graduation requirements, reports Bill Chappell for NPR. Marlin High School officials have helped an additional 12 students "resolve missing credits," and hopes more seniors will be eligible to claim diplomas when the ceremony is held, some time in June.

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