Bill to Hold Students Back a Grade for Poor Reading Moves Ahead

Tim Hoover, Denver Post, March 20, 2012

A bill that would recommend holding back kids in school if they can’t read by third grade won initial approval in the Colorado House on Tuesday in a debate that split Democrats.

House Bill 1238 doesn’t mandate holding functionally illiterate children back, but it does require schools to measure reading progress from kindergarten through third grade and hold discussions between teachers, principals and parents on whether to hold back a child.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to hold a child back a grade would rest with the school district superintendent.

Bipartisan supporters of the bill said it was a modest step toward improving early childhood literacy in Colorado, critical for reducing dropout rates and increasing college readiness. {snip}

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And though opponents of the bill said it would disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who is black, and Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, who is Latino, argued in favor of it.

“As far as I’m concerned, this bill is about closing the reading achievement gap in the state of Colorado,” Fields said. “In the state of Colorado, we have a problem, and the problem is centered around reading. We can no longer continue to do what we do. We have to put a focus on reading, and it has to start in kindergarten through third grade.”

Ramirez said that while retention may not always be the answer, the conversation must be required.

“I was that poor minority child growing up,” he said. “If it weren’t for that threat of being held up, I might not have put that extra effort forward so that I could move on to the next grade.”

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