Putting Education Reform To The Test

About That 3rd Grade Reading Requirement

Senate Education Chairman John Legg.

The Florida Senate

Senate Education Chairman John Legg.

Yesterday, a Senate committee appeared to suspend for one year Florida’s requirement that the lowest-performing 3rd graders be held back while the state validates results from its new test.

But Senate Education committee chairman John Legg says it’s not that simple.

What the committee actually did, Legg says, is put the responsibility on school districts whether students stay in 3rd grade or move to 4th grade. So some students with the lowest scores on the state language arts exam could still be retained this year.

“They asked us to trust them,” Legg says of the request from school district leaders.

Florida law requires 3rd grade students earning the lowest score on the state reading test spend another year in 3rd grade to improve their reading. Students can get an exemption from the requirement by submitting a portfolio of their work, through alternative test scores or other methods.

But this year Florida is switching from the FCAT to the new Florida Standards Assessments. Part of switching to a new exam is proving the results accurately measure what they intend to measure — a process know as validation.

Legg says the Florida Department of Education doesn’t expect to finish its full analysis of this year’s results until October — after the beginning of the next school year. Lawmakers were concerned students might be held back based on invalid test results.

School districts say they know which students need to be held back and which don’t. So senators struck a compromise.

This year, according to the change approved Wednesday, the lowest-scoring 20 percent of students would be labeled “at risk.” It will then be up to the school district to prove the student should move on to 4th grade.

Bottom line: even if the full Senate and House approve the compromise, some 3rd graders may still be retained this year.


  • Jinia Parker

    This makes it sound so civilized when in reality, its anything but. All over Florida schools are denying parents the right to use portfolios for promotion to 4th grade. Stating that isn’t an option. The bullying tactics have only intensified. I’d ask the reporter to contact schools and then parents to compare stories on denial of promotion. Even though results of the FSA are likely to come during the school year (next school year) they are the only magic way 3rd graders can be promoted in numerous schools and entire districts. With a projected fail rate of 70% (overall…not just third grade), one has to wonder how many third grade classrooms will need to be added. The logistics alone are bizarre, if current policy continues. I had no idea retention could be used as a punitive tool and have yet to find a statute supporting the behavior and seeming policy of many elementary schools. The only way to make a real difference is these tragic policies is to opt out.

  • Sunshine

    An important factor the public should realize is age. When a student is held back in 3rd grade the normal age is 8 but for some are already 9. Once their held back in 3rd the age turns into 10 two years older then normal age. This child academically may not be performing but hormonally and physically they are developing. This fact of life equals to the students by 6th grade are two to three years older then normal age which for a 6th grader is 10 to 11 (with some turning 12). Their academic abilities are not equal, nevertheless; hormonally and physically development create a tremendous gap! Society should get a grip on the fact that separating students from their own age group causes problems that could be avoided. We should go own and move them up based on their age then address the academic abilities by just implementing remedial or tutorial teaching for the students that are not on the expected grade level academics. This way the student would stay with their appropriate age group but processing on a different academic tract. Just ask yourself this question “Do you really like your 10 or 11 year child being a sixth grade with above grade level ages? These ages range from 13 to 16. I hope this gives you something to think about and maybe you the will speak out. Just saying whether it is state or local level decision you can make a difference.

  • Cathy

    It started in scarsdale. “YOU mean this can only hurt my daughter and it in no way helps her?” So now dozens of parents realize it does not help their student. The student breaks the seal on the test and the parent picks her up. Simple really. Parents who truly care about their children refuse to have them abused.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »