Fri, 01 Dec 2023

MONTGOMERY, Alabama: Last week, Alabama's school chief, Superintendent Eric Mackey, said that under new reading benchmarks to move to fourth grade, which will come into force this year, 10,000 or more third graders could be held back this summer.

Alabama lawmakers delayed the law's implementation to give students and schools the time to recover from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 50,000 students will need to reach the score before they can advance to fourth grade.

"This is the year that will happen with these current third-graders," Mackey said last week.

Under the Alabama Literacy Act, which was approved by lawmakers in 2019, third-grade students must make a minimum score on the state's standardized reading assessment or otherwise demonstrate mastery of all relevant state reading standards through a portfolio.

In August, Governor Kay Ivey said she opposed any further delay of the retention provision.

Mackey said it is difficult to estimate how many students would be retained under that score, but he estimated between 10,000 and 12,000.

That does not mean they would all be required to repeat third grade because some of them would go to summer school and retake the test, while others would be promoted through a reading portfolio assessment, he added.

However, as they believed it was too low, three school board members voted against setting the score at the level recommended by Mackey.

"We are doing a great disservice if we set the bar too low," board member Stephanie Bell said.

The board could consider resetting the score next year.

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