3rd Graders Held Back? And Parents Don’t Have A Say? 4 States Are Considering It


Iowa, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Colorado are considering legislation that would make students repeat 3rd grade if they can’t pass state reading exams. This has sparked a debate over whether retaining students actually boosts their achievement or simply increases the odds that they will drop out. From kindergarten through 2nd grade, parents could still insist that their child be promoted, but at 3rd grade the school would have the final say. Similar bills have been passed in Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, and Florida, but the results are hard to read.


Proponents point to Florida, which has had 3rd grade retention in place since 2001. Reading scores have been boosted as much as 41% in some cases. The first year, 13% of Florida’s 3rd graders were held back. Since then, the number is down to 6% and Florida has climbed back up to the national average in 4th grade literacy. Some say there’s no way to know that retention was the reason for the boost, and that the situation is far more complicated. Arizona, for example, hasn’t seen any improvement since passing 3rd grade retention.

Opponents of the bill draw attention to a study in Chicago schools in the 1990’s. Tens of thousands of students were held back for deficiency in math and reading. Years later, the students who were retained showed no improvement over students with the same academic problems who were promoted instead. Nationwide, our reading scores haven’t budged in 2 decades, despite gains in math, and only one third of American schoolchildren passed the most recent national reading exam.


Many see 3rd grade as the crucial year for reading. A study by the Annie E. Casey foundation found that students who don’t read proficiently by 3rd grade are four times as likely to drop out of school. An important question to ask is, which is more damaging to a child’s self esteem: being held back, or being illiterate? The bills are meeting stiff resistance in their state legislatures, and we will have to see what comes of it. What do you think? We’d love to hear your opinion. Be sure to leave your comments below!


For more info, check out the following articles:


Wall Street Journal


Sioux City Journal


Fox News


Ann Dolin, M.Ed. is the founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring (ectutoring.com) and is the Author of Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework.