UPDATED — The Legislature today passed the Alabama Literacy Act to require flunking third graders who don’t read at grade level. The bill is headed to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, and modeled on a Mississippi law.
“In my heart I believe that if we pass a child out of the third grade that cannot read, we are failing that child,” Collins has said.
But not everyone agrees on the idea of holding children back because they don’t have the reading skills of other children in their grade. Some educators, parents and policy makers believe the practice sets students up to fail. They also think that automatic retention penalizes poor children. One study found that children of wealthier parents are 14 percent less likely to be retained than the child of a high school dropout, even though the students’ test scores were the same.
Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Craig Pouncey said the Literacy Act offers no long-lasting reforms and no recurring revenue.
“The bill has its aspirational points, but there is no adequate funding,” Pouncey said before the final passage.
“This bill ignores the retention aspects of schools,” Pouncey said. “If a student is retained, it is unlikely they will graduate, and no parent wants older, more mature boys (who have been held back) in their 12-year-old daughter’s class.” Read more.
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday night passed a bill to require schools to hold back for another year third-grade students who are not reading on grade level.
The bill was debated for more than two hours as Democrats questioned the ability of the bill to solve reading problems in failing schools and voiced concerns about the retention component of the bill. Some also cited the expected costs as a concern. The Alabama State Department of Education estimates literacy education requirements in the bill will cost $90 million annually.
In the end, the House voted 92-3 to pass House Bill 388, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur. Collins consulted with the Department of Education and said the bill could see additional changes as it moves to the Senate. Read more.
A bill approved Wednesday by a House committee would provide resources to get more Alabama third graders reading proficiently and requires that those who aren’t be held back.
Bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins, R- Decatur, said during a public hearing: “I’ve read estimates that only 35% of our children are reading proficiently, that is 65% that are not. So I hope that shows the urgency of which we need to deal with this issue.”
The state Department of Education estimates it would cost about $90 million annually to implement the proposal, according to a fiscal note on the bill. Read more.
Updated — Alabama public school third-graders who don’t have sufficient reading skills will not move on to fourth grade under proposed legislation that will dedicate more time, training and financial resources to early elementary literacy.
“If a child can’t read by third grade, their chances for retention later go up, their chances of not graduating go up,” Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, told Alabama Daily News on Monday. She plans to file legislation called the Alabama Literacy Act this week. Read more.