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Florida third graders get another option to show they can read

The state also reminds schools to let those who struggle that scholarships for help are available.
The Florida Department of Education has approved another alternate assessment for third graders to demonstrate they read at or above grade level.
Published Nov. 18

As the second quarter of the school year continues, some of the Florida students repeating third grade because of their reading struggles might come to the point where they’re ready to prove they’re now ready for the fourth grade.

They now have another option to demonstrate their skills.

The Florida Department of Education has approved an eighth alternate test to the Florida Standards Assessment that children may take to show their reading progress. They must score at the 50th percentile or above on the Achieve3000 Level Set to meet the requirements for promotion.

State lawmakers have insisted that third graders must repeat the grade if they cannot read at or above grade level on the FSA or one of its growing list of alternatives. Those also include SAT10, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), Terranova, NWEA MAP, STAR Enterprise, I-Ready and I-Station.

Students also can use a portfolio of classroom work to show their abilities.

Several critics have blasted the concept, now dating back 20 years, as detrimental to children’s development. Studies have indicated that students who are held back might show short-term gains, but over time could be less likely to complete high school.

The policies also generally disproportionately affect children in minority groups, English-language learners, students with disabilities and low-income youth, which fuels added criticism of the approach.

Its supporters, by contrast, argue that the retention rule gives youngsters more time to achieve the skill that matters most in their future academic success. They note that the students get several forms of good cause exemptions, such as the alternate tests, to pass the requirement.

For those who continue to struggle, the state also recently created a $500 scholarship that families can use to pay for tutoring and other materials aimed at improving their skills.

As it announced the latest alternate assessment, the department also reminded schools to let parents know that funding exists.

“During this time of year many students are receiving report cards for the first grading period. We would like to encourage you to once again notify parents of this opportunity, especially in the case of students who continue to demonstrate a need for additional reading support,” chancellor Jacob Oliva wrote in a memo to superintendents. “We would also like to inform you that districts may directly partner with Step Up for Students to provide additional services funded through the Reading Scholarship Accounts.”

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