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Oklahoma Third-Grade Reading Law Takes Effect

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It's down to the wire for some Oklahoma elementary students.

For the first time - third graders who don't pass the reading portion of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test will not be promoted to the fourth grade.

An important step, State Superintendent Janet Barresi said, to combating Oklahoma's nearly 30% illiteracy rate.

The third-grade amendment to the Reading Sufficiency Act was signed by Governor Fallin in 2011.

"With fourth grade, you stop learning to read and you start reading to learn," Barresi said at a Monday press conference at the Oklahoma State Capitol.  "Very critical gateway year."

To get to fourth grade, third graders will have to prove they can read on, at least, a second grade level.

"If not, we are simply sentencing our children to a life of illiteracy and, quite frankly, a lower quality of life," Barresi said, "and I can't allow that to stand on my watch."
Barresi pointed to studies that show 88% of 19 year olds who couldn't read by the third grade are likely to drop out of high school.

But what about english language learners?

Or students with disabilities?

There are six "good cause" exemptions for them and other students who show an acceptable performance level on alternative reading tests or teacher-developed reading portfolios.

"Retention is a last resort," Barresi said.  "I want to dispel the myth that this is one test on one day for our children."

Kelly Baker, an associate professor of early childhood education at UCO, says young children need to be promoted, but have individual attention to foster their growth.

"To use a test as a soul decision maker as to whether a child would be promoted or not is just, I think, it borders on unethical," she said following the press conference.

"They grow and learn at different rates.  That's a long held understanding in child development and learning, and so for children to be identified at age four as potentially at-risk for becoming readers is, again, really inappropriate."

Click here for more information on the third-grade reading law