LeDoux's HB197 ending social promotion of 3rd-graders held

JUNEAU — A bill that requires third-graders to be held back if they do not meet literacy requirements will remain in the House Education Committee during the interim period.

HB197, by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, would end the so-called social promotion of students because of nonacademic factors, including a stigma that is attached to being “held back.”

The bill was introduced to the House Education Committee on Wednesday. Rep. Lynn Gattis, the committee’s chairwoman, said the bill would be held in the committee between this year’s legislative session — which ends Sunday — and next year’s.

“Learning to read does not get easier when you age,” LeDoux’s aide, Lisa Vaught, told the committee. “Illiterate third-graders move on to become illiterate fourth-graders, and then fifth- and sixth- and seventh-graders.”

LeDoux, R-Anchorage, has dubbed the bill the “Learn to Read - Read to Learn Act” because third grade is often identified as the grade when children make the aforementioned transition — when they stop learning how to read, but rather use reading as a tool to further their education.

The measure also requires districts to create reading programs and enact measures that help to combat childhood illiteracy, such as tutoring and small group instruction, and a home reading plan and student monitoring. Students who are held back also would have to participate in a summer reading camp.

Some students could be exempted from being held back, including those with limited English proficiency and those who have a disability that exempts them from taking statewide assessments.

“If these strategies were put in place — these intervention strategies — starting in kindergarten through third grade, we’d see a difference,” Mike Hanley, the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, told the committee.

While these are all positive strategies, according to Hanley, he noted that it is important to remember the bill does not allocate any funding for them but still requires districts to supply them.


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