SCS exploring steps to increase third grade reading proficiency, including holding students back

SCS policy could hold back more 2nd graders

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Schools is exploring a policy that could hold back second graders who fail to meet tougher literacy standards. Statistics based on state testing show only one quarter of SCS third graders read at a third grade level, making it a key focus for district administrators.

“We are really thinking about a way to support second graders before they enter third grade,” said Shane Avant, SCS Board Chairwoman.

Avant said getting a hold on early literacy is a priority for the district and the transition from second to third grade is critical. That’s when students stop learning to read and begin reading to learn and comprehend. Educators said if a student can’t read at this point it is almost guaranteed they will fall behind in all subjects.

Under the current approach, second graders get to third grade as long as they pass.

“Passing a grade and being ready and proficient in mastery and reading are two different things,” said Avant.

A new rubric would include not only classroom work, but also scores on standardized tests. Avant said an assessment performed in early February would reveal which students are deficient. The increased efforts from there would include after school interventions, Saturday school, and summer school to get the students reading at third grade level so that they can advance.

City and county leaders have cited concern over third-grade reading proficiency as a key reason for their expansion of needs based, universal Pre-Kindergarten in Shelby County. Avant said Wednesday it’s about preparing a future workforce – and that begins early.

“It is important for SCS to make sure that we are taking the life of every single child as importantly as the entire district,” Avant said, “It starts right here in Memphis. We have to be able to educate people for post-secondary opportunities, which includes going straight to work.”

Documents provided by SCS referencing the proposal did not indicate how many students were at stake of being held back under the proposed rubric.

Avant said some parts of the proposal will be tested or introduced in 2019, with the board having a final say and vote on whether to implement the plan in 2020.

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