As students return to schools across South Carolina over the next two weeks, one of the biggest changes taking effect this upcoming year could require students who fail to read on grade level be held back after third grade.
The new requirements are part of the “Read to Succeed Act” approved by legislators and signed by then-Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014. Under the new regulations, third-graders who have the lowest score on the SC Ready reading test could be affected.
Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said the idea is to make sure students are ready to advance. “We realize that reading is one of, if not the most, critical predictor of educational and even lifelong success,” “So, when the legislature was writing this, we wanted to get a comprehensive support system for readers.”
A student can avoid being held back by attending a summer reading camp and showing positive gains or passing an alternative test given by the school district, under the Education Department’s regulations. Students with limited English or who have a recognized disability also will not be affected. Previously held-back students who show improvement will be able to advance.
Roughly 3,200 students statewide would have been eligible had the program been in effect last year.
Brown said, while third grade is the critical point, the program tries to target struggling kids much earlier. “They are identifying these students way before then. And the supports are as soon as they get into the public education system. We’re not just waiting until the third grade.”
South Carolina districts have already been offering summer reading camps and reading coaches the past three years since the law’s passage.