The Florida Department of Education mandates that any child not reading on grade level by the end of third grade must be retained. The problem with this mandate is that third grade is far too late for the majority of students. And that is how Manatee County has been responding. But what if Manatee County took initiative and responded in a pro-active way.
I am in favor of the School Board enacting policy through the Student Progression Plan that would allow for the retention of some students in Kindergarten, First, or Second grade, where the fundamental reading skills are taught. In third grade, teachers begin to transition students into teaching themselves by reading content related materials. Without those fundamental skills prior to third grade, a child can not succeed in the reading comprehension of those materials.
In my opinion, we need to identify those students that would benefit from being held back and retain them one time in either kindergarten, first, or second grades, helping to increase their ability to read and ultimately increasing their chances of graduating from high school.
Reading is a skill that is used as a building block for the rest of one's life. If that foundation isn't laid properly, the rest of the building will be unstable. The resources to continue to build upon it will be resources poorly spent. The extra time and money that it takes to firmly cement this skill at the beginning of a child's education is the best way for our county to strengthen our education system.
At the same time, we need to petition the Florida Department of Education to change their law that students must be held back in third grade if they are not reading at or on grade level. This law needs to be changed to “a student must be held back prior to or including second grade at least once, if they are not reading on grade level by second grade”.
Holding students back prior to third grade helps them to learn reading from teachers that are teaching basic reading skills that these students are missing. This allows the third-grade teachers to focus on teaching reading skills as it is related to content areas.