Psychologists group lobbying to tweak Nevada reading initiative

A group of school psychologists is fighting to eliminate the retention requirement for third-graders under Nevada’s Read by Grade Three initiative.

The law, passed in 2015, requires districts to create literacy plans and interventions for students from kindergarten through third grade. Beginning in 2019, third-graders who do not reach a proficient level on the state assessment will be held back.

The Nevada Association of School Psychologists is lobbying legislators this session to tweak the law, and cites multi-million dollar costs to the state and the negative impact that retention can have on a student’s emotional health.

Katie Dockweiler, the group’s president, argued that being held back is not good for mental, social and emotional health.

“There’s the stigma certainly, and that’s the biggest piece,” she said. “Psychologically, if you know that everybody goes on and you’re left behind, research shows students tend to shut down.”

Using the number of third-graders who failed the state assessment this year, the group also estimates a $189.6 million cost if they were held back.

Dockweiler said the state could use a portion of that money to invest in intervention strategies before students reach third grade, including diagnostic tests.

“We could really use a lot of the funds that would be allocated — or magically created — for the retention piece, and reallocate that into the intervention piece,” she said. “We could remediate a lot of that on the front end so we don’t have to worry about that so much on the back end.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero said it is too early to suggest removing the retention standard.

“This program includes financial support and dedicated literacy experts across Nevada that are diligently implementing this program across every kindergarten through third grade,” he said in a statement. “Struggling readers are now being provided research-based classroom instruction and targeted interventions. What this means is that every K-3 reader across Nevada will receive supports and monitoring to ensure the student is on track to literacy by the end of third grade.”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at 702-383-4630 or Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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