La. lawmaker plans to re-propose bill to hold back third graders who struggle with reading
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - 41% of students in Louisiana are reading below grade level, according to the latest results from the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program.
The decline in reading scores is why Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, is once again proposing a plan to hold back young students who struggle to read.
Nelson plans to introduce a bill that will retain a student in the third grade if they fail their state reading assessments. His original bill came just a few votes shy of gaining Senate approval during the last session.
He says Mississippi adopted a similar plan in 2013 that drastically improved their scores.
“Mississippi made this change in about 2013, and since then they’ve the highest increase in literacy in I think the country’s history,” Nelson said.
The plan is to put these kids in a special program dedicated to improving their reading.
“You get put with a highly effective teacher, you get in a special, intensive 90-minutes a day of reading instruction so that by the time the of the year rolls around, you’re reading where you need to be and you’ll have the tools to succeed moving forward,” Nelson said.
Opponents argued the bill would hold back too many students or could do more harm than good. Nelson challenged that opinion by saying only around 8% of kids would get held back under this proposal.
“Would it be better to promote them and have them struggle with reading in school for the rest of their career? Or would you rather hold them back, get them the extra tutoring, everything they need, and then give them the tools they need to succeed moving forward,” Nelson said.
Sen. Regina Barrow agrees that something needs to be done, but she shared some concerns over Nelson’s approach.
“I don’t want any unintended consequences at the result of trying to do something good.”
Barrow expressed concerns over funding, and what would happen to handicap students under this proposal.
She also had questions about the psychological harm this could cause a child and the possibility of other resources.
“When a child fails or is held behind, if there are not enough resources to let that child know that he is not or she is not a failure, sometimes they can’t even overcome that stigma. If we’re not making sure those resources are there to help them along the way, then sometimes they can get stuck there and never really grow beyond that,” Barrow said.
Barrow says she hopes to meet with Nelson to discuss this proposal and figure out some middle ground that could satisfy both parties.
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