CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Educators like to say that third grade is the year when students go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Yet one afternoon last month, there was Anthony, a 10-year-old whose small frame was highlighted by baggy black cargo shorts, struggling with “Tiny the Snow Dog,” a picture book with only a handful of words per page. “This is Tiny,” he read to his teacher, Holly Bryant. “He is my dog.”

Anthony is one of about 1,900 children from the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District who failed the standardized reading test given to all North Carolina third graders in the spring. Under a recent law similar to those in more than a dozen states, such students in North Carolina may be required to repeat the grade. The law, being applied this year to third graders for the first time, poses a set of thorny educational challenges.

About 1,500 students — or one of every eight who completed third grade in Charlotte in June — ended up enrolling in literacy school, along with Anthony, who has been attending four days a week for the past six weeks.

 About 1,500 children in the Charlotte district took the reading classes. Credit Megan Gielow for The New York Times – Credit Megan Gielow for The New York Times

 

Fourteen states in 2012 enacted policies either mandating or strongly recommending that schools hold back students who could not read properly by third grade. Districts in Arizona and Colorado also offered summer school for struggling third-grade readers for the first time this year, then will consider whether to hold back some of them before the new school year begins.

A Summer of Extra Reading and Hope for Fourth Grade, Motoko Rich, The New York Times, August 4, 2014

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