Senate passes bill allowing 3rd graders with low reading assessments to be promoted

Published 5:19 pm Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Mississippi Senate passed Senate Bill 2706 which would allow children who do not pass the third grade reading assessment but only score as low as a 2, to proceed to fourth grade with recommendations for the 2021-2022 school year.

SB 2076 was created in response to COVID-19 effect on in-school learning and retention in students. Mississippi third graders are scored on a 1-5 scale for the reading gate test. In the past, they needed a 2 was needed to pass, but it has since been elevated to a 3. Students who receive what is considered to be a failing score, a 2, on the reading screener will still be promoted along with the rest of their class.

However, those students will be given remedial instruction provided in the literacy-based promotion act. Students who take the remediation courses will still have to pass the reading screener in the 4th grade.

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Republican Senator, and principal author of the bill, Nicole Boyd of Oxford spoke on the Senate Floor to explain the purpose and origin of the legislation.

Boyd spoke with school superintendents and reading interventionalists from schools around state who have requested help for students that didn’t have enough time in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past three years, students have missed entire semesters of schools, dealt with the transition to online learning and experience inconsistent schooling due to quarantines and other coronavirus-related factors.

“They said we simply haven’t had the time we need to make sure that these children get there,” Boyd said. “But if they can at least make that 2, we think with that summer reading intervention and that minimal [instruction], they think most of these children can be remediated very early.”

The bill was purposefully written to be similar to the Third Grade Reading Gate, according to Boyd.

“The intervention is similar to what they would receive in third grade but it also has some particularities in here about when teachers would have to convene and when they would have to have their reading plan in place,” she said.

According Boyd, the bill will divide the higher-performing students who did not make the necessary score to the fourth grade and those students will receive remedial instruction. If a child scores a 1, they will be held back in the third grade and will be required to do on Third Grade Reading Gate.

“The Third Grade Reading Gate is a tremendous bill, we’ve seen the success of it and many of [the senators] worked very hard to pass it,” she said. “So what we’ve done with this bill is we’ve made sure not to weaken any of these interventions.”

SB 2706 will only be in affect for one year. The aim isn’t to lower the standard, but only to change the timeline for interventions.

Republican Senator Angela Burks Hill stood to comment on the bill and her approval for the time limit. Hill referenced Mississippi achievements in literacy pre-coronavirus pandemic and hopes the state gets back on track.

“We have more money poured into schools than we have seen our lifetime, or at least that I have,” said Hill. “I think regardless of how much money is being poured in, these scores are still lacking because of all of the disruptions that they’ve had. So, hopefully and prayerfully, all of these disruptions will be gone and we’ll be back here on track again.”