SC Raises the Bar for Third Graders
Columbia (PalmettoTimes) – Compared to the rumble and tumble you would find in other summer camps, the children at Bradley Elementary are engaging in intellectual pursuits. The same is true in North Springs Elementary, where third graders go through the nuances of learning how to improve their reading ability.
A new state law has made it mandatory for pupils doing poorly in their reading to stay behind one year. This new law would likely affect about one in 20 third graders.
The overall focus of this new law is to encourage the teaching of reading in public schools. The state has already spent about $164 million to this effect. The state spent this sum on reading coaches and summer reading camps all over the state.
Under the new law, teachers must get training to show that they know how to teach reading. More than 650 reading coaches are working hand in hand with the teachers to analyze the performance of students. The coaches would also pinpoint the areas where the pupil needs help, and would help teachers create models for improving the pupils.
Educators and advocates are waiting to see the results of this new policy, modelled after a similar one passed in Florida.
Before the law was passed, the repetition of a grade was done on a case by case basis. This meant that principals, parents, counselors, and teachers would have to discuss the issue. With this new law, any third grader that didn’t meet the reading requirements for his grade would have to stay back.
The reason why the third grade is the focus of this policy is because this is the grade when pupils start using reading to learn the generality of their other subjects.
Some other educators are wondering if the law actually goes far enough. What about those children that slightly pass the required scores but are still very much in need of help?
In the previous year, about 44% of third graders in South Carolina passed the statewide reading test. 34 % approached the required expectations while 22% did not meet the required expectations at all.
Under the new law, only five percent of the students would have to repeat the class, the worst performers in the 22% that didn’t perform well. This has made people like the S.C Education Oversight Committee director, Melanie Barton, wonder whether the state should consider raising the cutoff mark to make sure that more students are given the opportunity for further development.
The summer reading camps are programs designed to help improve the children’s reading ability to prevent them from repeating the class. However, the summer camps are not solely for third graders. The camps are for all children that need assistance with developing their reading ability.
Setting up the camp is one thing, getting children to attend is another. Of the 8,609 students in the reading camps, 4,616 were third graders. However, about 8,229 third graders were eligible to attend the reading camp.
It is in a bid to attract the right crowd of kids that the camps incorporate some fun activities from traditional summer camps. There are activities like dancing around a make-believe campfire, cooking clubs, Lego, and so on. On Field Trip Fridays, the children go to places like the Myrtle Beach aquarium, a science museum in Charlotte, and Riverbanks Zoo. All in a bid to make the whole experience fun.
Whether all this would pay off in the long run is something that is yet to be seen. Only time would tell.
According to the State Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, “I fully anticipate that our children are doing better in reading, and we’re going to have a small number of children who are going to be retained. Are we there totally? No. But we are working … to get there.”