Children Who Cannot Pass Reading Test Would Be Held Back Under Sandoval Proposal

CARSON CITY – Third-graders who cannot read at a third-grade level would not advance to fourth grade under a proposal from Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The assertion rests on common-sense logic, and Sandoval has been promoting his idea since he was on the campaign trail.

It’s simple – until third grade, we learn to read. After that, we read to learn,” he said during his State of the State address earlier this week. “Most kids who start behind, stay behind. It has to stop.”

Simple enough. The complicated part, though, will be funding remediation programs or paying for students to re-take the third grade. The governor is already proposing 10 percent cuts to K-12 education and districts are warning of million dollar deficits.

Both state Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault and Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, have said the idea is a good one, but have held further endorsement until the governor shows them the money.

Other Democrats have warned that the proposal comes at a bad time.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, has already criticized Sandoval’s proposal. Although she isn’t against the proposal, she said it’s unjust to first reduce funding for full-day kindergarten, class-size reduction and early learning programs and then expect third-graders to pass a reading exam.

Sandoval plans to introduce a bill to the Legislature that would establish a minimum score on an existing reading test administered to all third graders. Pass and you’re on to the fourth grade. Fail and you’re in for a do-over or at least some kind of remediation like summer school.

This would end the practice called social promotion whereby students automatically go to the next grade regardless of whether they perform at grade level.

Right now, school districts use a hodgepodge of ways to educate under-performing children, said Rheault. These range from small group sessions to individual attention both during school and after school.

Like many programs, though, these remediation programs either aren’t funded or have been eliminated.

The governor’s proposal to end social promotion is still sketchy. The governor’s staff have determined neither a funding source nor the level for a “fail” or “pass” grade.

The state currently provides a base level of funding for all students. Should a third-grader fail the reading exam, the state would either have to pay for that student to repeat the third grade or pay for other remediation programs.

The governor, however, contends that Nevada has to start somewhere in fixing its schools. Part of that, he says, is to establish statewide standards such as this.

At the same time, the governor wants to allow school districts flexibility in how they manage class-size reduction, full-day kindergarten and other programs.

How you deliver the education is up to the school districts,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser. “We’re not going to tell them how to teach.”

Instead, Erquiaga said, the governor will set standards and give districts leeway in how to meet those standards.

Beyond the funding, the debate over whether ending “social promotion” works is still up in the air.

Rheault said that some research suggests children are more likely to drop out later when they’re held back and separated from children their age.

Other evidence appears to refute this.

In Florida, former Gov. Jeb Bush ended social promotion during 2002. Today, literacy levels for Florida’s schoolchildren have dramatically increased. Bush has taken his reforms on the road through his education reform group, Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Here in Nevada, Sandoval is using the Florida model to craft his bill.

Around the United States, the massive New York City school district has done away with social promotion. Bills in various Legislatures around the country would also eliminate it. In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez addressed ending social promotion in her State of the State address as well.

  • http://OrganizedLaborParty.com/ Tony’s Take

    I’m sick of listening to some teachers whine and complain. It’s pretty simple here “teach.” This is the job. Do it or look for another job you can handle. If teaching children was easy, everyone would be doing it. Sandoval has it right. Save the lesson that Johny has two mommies until Jr. High.

  • http://nevadanewsbureau michael

    Sounds cool till the 3rd graders end up with halve a class of “bigger kids” who should be 6th graders.