Looking for our new site?

Going Beyond Third-Grade Retention to Help Struggling Readers

Published:   April 30, 2012

Early educators and child advocates continue to stress the importance of children learning to read by the end of third grade.  Legislators in several states are signaling their interest in this too by proposing third-grade retention policies that keep children from graduating to fourth grade until they can pass a reading test. Is this a smart approach?

Karen Schimke doesn't think so. She and Stephanie Rose are the co-authors of Third Grade Literacy Policies: Identification, Intervention, Retention, a recent policy paper from the Education Commission of the States, where Schimke is project manager for the Early Learning Institute. In this podcast, Schimke describes research on how retention policies can do more harm than good, especially if implemented poorly and without investments in the identification of reading problems in a child's early years and without good interventions in pre-K, kindergarten and early elementary school. Her report focuses on efforts in New York City and Florida and provides recommendations for taking advantage of the new Common Core standards to elevate reading instruction. Schimke also provides a detailed preview of a forthcoming Commission report that will lay out a model for state leaders who want to improve children's reading in sustainable ways.