Editorial: State reading program needs detailed review

  • Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 12:01 a.m.

When legislators return to Columbia in January, they will be considering a new way to ensure students can learn to read on an appropriate age level.

The problem is that their solution appears to be somewhat of a one-size-fits-all approach rather than one that can target students in critical need.

As part of the plan, students unable to read on an appropriate level by third grade may have to repeat the entire grade. In addition, those students who haven’t reached appropriate standards would have to enroll in a “summer reading camp” to catch up on their skills, according to the Greenville News. Additionally, they would have to attend at least 90 minutes of intensive reading instruction if they repeat the grade.

It’s obviously vital that students in our state have the ability to read effectively.

The measures that will be up for debate, however, appear to focus on the big picture and not individual needs.

Wisely, the current plan would not apply to students for whom English is a second language or those with disabilities. They would be exempt from the law.

However, for any student, simply repeating the grade doesn’t seem like the most apt solution to reach a certain literacy level.

Hopefully, school districts will also have the necessary resources to provide the extra, mandated reading sessions for struggling students.

Thankfully, the proposal does provide students with a way out if they’re forced to repeat a grade. If a student can demonstrate that he or she has retained the lessons and is ready to move up to the fourth grade, he or she will be able to do so mid-year.

However, this could create challenges for students. There will be a stigma for those who have to repeat a grade, but may otherwise show signs of performing well in the classroom.

The law also stipulates that teachers certified in subjects such as biology or history would have to return to school to take courses in how to teach reading. The idea behind pulling teachers back to school is that they might not be able to diagnose reading issues and won’t have the training necessary to find a remedy.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the state would completely pay for such training. Teachers would have to pay for it out of their own pockets.

Schools should be given the right assets needed to intervene at an earlier stage. Instead of repeating grades, kindergarten and first-grade teachers should be given the resources needed to ensure their students don’t fall behind.

Our state needs proactive and flexible solutions that put educational resources in the right hands. But this proposal ultimately seems to make students take two steps back before they can take one step forward.

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