9 States Make Adjustments for Early Reading Laws

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As states consider what reading instruction has covered this spring, and what it will look like in the fall, some have hit pause on their 3rd grade reading laws. In regular school years, these laws prevent students from advancing to the next grade unless they can demonstrate reading proficiency. Many are tied to performance on state tests, which states have canceled in response to the pandemic.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia require retaining students who do not meet these proficiency standards by the end of 3rd grade, though most allow for exemptions under certain conditions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The following states have announced changes to these policies for the 2019-20 school year, or issued new guidance:


See Also: Early Reading Instruction Takes a Hit During COVID-19


Arizona: Students do not need to meet the requirements of the 3rd grade reading law to be promoted.

District of Columbia: Students should not be retained unless “the family and school agree that it is in the student's best interest.”

Florida: As state testing data will not be available this school year, schools “promotion decisions should be made in consultation with parents, teachers, and school leaders based on the students’ classroom performance and progress monitoring data.”

Georgia: The cancellation of state tests eliminates the requirement to use testing data in 3rd grade promotion decisions.

Michigan: The 3rd grade reading law is suspended by executive order.

Mississippi: The 3rd grade reading test has been canceled. “Current 3rd graders will be promoted to 4th grade for the 2020-21 school year if the student meets all other district requirements for promotion.”

North Carolina: The state education department recommends that students be promoted unless the retention process was already “well underway” before the shutdowns.

Ohio: The state legislature suspended the 3rd grade reading law for the 2019-20 school year.

South Carolina: State testing data is not available this year, so promotion decisions should be based on “a collection of data points that may include formative assessments, teacher-made assessments, quarter grades earned, and prior parent notification and input.”

—Sarah Schwartz

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