Roughly 365 South Carolina third graders were held back this school year after they failed a required reading test, according to preliminary numbers made public this week by the state Department of Education.
They are the first students to be retained under the Read to Succeed Act, which fully took effect for the first time this year. However, that number of retained students is less than nine percent of the more than 4,000 listed as failing the test statewide.
Education Department spokesman Ryan Brown said most students either showed progress in summer reading camps or got an exemption due to a learning disability or because English was a second language for them.
“The goal is not to retain students,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “It is to make sure those students have the support that they need along the way by third grade so that they can be successful thereafter.”
The Read to Succeed Act was a 2014 state law meant to put greater emphasis on reading in elementary education. The law required those students who failed the test to attend a summer reading camp for a chance to advance to fourth grade. The bill’s supporters at the time argued a student’s reading ability by fourth grade is a reliable indicator of how well that student will perform in school at an older age.
South Carolina ranked 47th among fourth-grade reading scores in the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress test.