Proposed Law To Tie Fourth Grade Promotion With Reading Standard

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The first day of school is just around the corner now for most north Alabama students, but the start of a new year has one state lawmaker calling for changes in how students advance from one grade to the next.

A yet-to-be named bill by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R) of Decatur calls for the mandatory holdback of any third-grade student who cannot read at grade level by the end of the school year. Senator Orr told WHNT News 19 that too many students are being improperly advanced for social reasons, drastically increasing their chances of dropping out.

Recent figures show that Alabama's high school dropout rate is close to thirty percent, one of the higher-end averages in the United States. Orr has already completed a rough draft version of the bill, and could present it when the the state legislature reconvenes next year. Orr said it is similar to laws that are already on the books in states like Florida and Ohio.

"Just imagine if you can't read, how challenging life will be for you," said Orr. "The studies show that if a child can't read after the third grade, it gets harder and harder and harder..In Florida, what they're finding is that those third graders that are held back or given an intensive summer-school type program, they are going on to become really successful students. It gets the parents' attention, and it gets the parents engaged in the future academic success of their child."

Orr said he will present the proposal to the Alabama Dropout Commission next month.