EDITORIAL: Establishment has gutted Read by 3 program

Updated September 5, 2018 - 10:24 pm

Nevada’s Read by 3 program won’t go into effect for another two years, but you can already see how the education establishment has gutted the program.

Currently, it doesn’t matter if a Nevada student has met the academic standards of a grade or not. The vast majority of them will move along to the next grade, a practice called social promotion.

Read by 3 is supposed to stop that. If a third-grader isn’t proficient in reading at the end of the school year, the school holds them back. This setback can increase student achievement by ensuring that fourth-graders are able to read, setting them up for long-term success.

But retaining thousands of children would make the adults in the system extremely uncomfortable. Start with the parents, many of whom will be stunned to discover that their child’s learning hasn’t measured up. They’ll be upset at teachers, politicians and maybe even themselves.

That’d a be good thing. Thinking that you can change a failing system without making the adults involved feel uncomfortable is hard to fathom. Instead of being a vigorous accountability measure, however, Read by 3 is turning into a procedural hurdle.

Unfortunately, the tools needed to undermine Read by 3 were in the bill that created the program. Start with the implementation date.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the Read by 3 bill into law in 2015, but retentions won’t start until the end of the 2020 school year. Sandoval could have used his political popularity to ensure everyone accepted the new standard. Now, it’ll begin under a new governor who may or may not care about the program.

Next, the State Board of Education got to determine the passing score on the reading exam. Nevada considers students proficient in reading if they score a Level 3 or 4 on that test, but the board determined that Level 2 students have a passing score when it comes to Read by 3.

If you’re one of the 29 percent of third-graders who scored a Level 1, you could get a good cause exemption through a portfolio of work or if you’re an English language learner.

Last week, the board unveiled a second test that students can take to advance to grade 4 and the cutoff score: anything above the 30th percentile.

The alternative test was mandated in the law, but that passing score wasn’t. That low of a bar seems aimed more at shuffling students forward instead of making sure they’re capable readers.

Even though just 46 percent of Nevada third-graders are proficient in English, it’ll be surprising if Read by 3 retains even a single child.

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