State House continues discussions about holding third graders ba - - Columbia, South Carolina |

State House continues discussions about holding third graders back who don't read at grade level

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Lawmakers continue to debate a measure that could force third graders who do not read at grade level to repeat the third grade.

The discussion comes after a study found roughly three out of 10 third grade students in South Carolina struggles to read at grade level.

Florida has a third grade retention policy in place for students who aren't reading at grade level and has cost the state around $1 billion over the last decade.

While South Carolina lawmakers consider establishing the same program, known as the "Read to Succeed Act," paying for it could be a problem.

Second graders around the state will soon have to meet some high expectations.

"In the third grade it goes from learning how to read, to applying those reading skills in reading comprehension," said Michael Guliano, director of elementary education for Lexington-Richland District Five.

By the fourth grade, research shows up to 70 percent of students in the state struggle with reading. Lawmakers hope the answer could be holding back third graders who don't meet school reading standards.

"This is a win-win situation," said Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-Richland). "No matter how the bill ends up, I think South Carolina will benefit."

Reading coaches, summer reading camps and teacher training are all part of the proposal but concerns about funding are weighing heavily in the senate's discussion.

"Right now there is no money for that," Jackson said. "If there's no money for that, then it's probably not fair to hold them back."

Many lawmakers predict a $65 million proposal to expand the 4-year-old kindergarten will eventually merge with the "Read to Succeed Act" but the debate continues.

"I think an integral part of it has to be four year old kindergarten statewide for at risk students, because to say you're going to hold back a child in the third grade but not yet provide them with four year old kindergarten is putting them behind the eight ball," said Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Richland County.

Senators voted 36-6 on Wednesday on a bipartisan compromise of the bill.

Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, students still struggling to read by the end of third grade would be held back for intensive help.

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler got teary-eyed after its passage, as he dedicated the vote to all South Carolinians who don't read well.

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