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Lawmakers: Students could be held back for poor reading scores

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RALEIGH – Students in North Carolina may want to start brushing on up their reading skills this year because by next year it could hold them back in school.

A provision within the state budget approved by lawmakers said in the 2013-2014, school year, a student could not advance to fourth grade if the don't pass a third grade reading test.

But one education leader said this won't help students.

Sen. Phil Berger proposed an Excellence in Education package to state lawmakers this year, and many of the key points in that proposal were incorporated into the final budget bill that is now state law.

“The key to the program is making sure that kids know how to read by the end of third grade,” said Berger.

But the state Superintendent of Public Instruction said the plan to end social promotion in third grade if students can't read on grade level is a bad idea.

“Retaining students at the end of the third grade does not pay off in the long run,” said June Atkinson.

Atkinson said she applauds the idea of putting an emphasis on reading and that there is money being given to create help for students who are falling behind in reading.

But she said the directive to stop promotion in third grade doesn't make sense.

“Students who are proficient in math, should not have to repeat the third grade to take math again. So we need to have a different model than just retention of student,” said Atkinson.

But this is modeled after a plan being used in Florida and the Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education says it has been very successful.

“For years, we knew that a third of our kids couldn't read they weren't set up for success, but the emotional outcry from that wasn't the same as it was for retention,” said Jaryn Emhof, communications director for the foundation.

The numbers tell the story in Florida. Right now, about six percent of their third graders are being retained because of reading – more than it was a decade ago.

But half what it was in 2002- when their no social promotion policy was implemented.

“I think parents should welcome the increased attention on their students and make sure we are identifying kids who are struggling early on,” said Emhof.

Atkinson said she agrees with the increased attention but said this is not the way to help kids ultimately succeed.

John Tedesco is running against Atkinson to be the new superintendent of public instruction in an statement to News 14 Carolina: "We cannot continue to just pass kids through the system who are not ready. We need to solve the problems in reading as early as possible and not just pass it on down the line. "

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