Held back in the third grade?

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Updated: Mon, 14 Oct 2013 07:11:33 CST

From social studies to science, there's plenty to cover at Longfellow Elementary.  But Principal Cathy Cafferty says there's one subject that's the most important.

"We learn to read when we're little but then we read to learn when we get older," said Cafferty. 

That's why State Senator Scott Lautenbaugh is tackling reading head on.

Lautenbaugh is proposing a law requiring third graders in public schools be held back if they struggle to read at a third grade level.  But how do you determine whose struggling?

"If you base it on one state test or are you going to look at a lot of different components to decide is where they need to be or not?" asked Cafferty.

And why third grade? Research shows that in third grade, if students are still struggling with reading, they'll continue to struggle throughout school.

But many educators agree-- holding students back could cause even bigger problems.

"If you are not reading at a third grade reading level, I don't think that one class should be the reason that you're held back. I think that they should look at the whole picture, not just academics but social as well. If they're held back, how would that impact them socially?" said third grade teacher Kayla Perry. 

But at Longfellow Elementary, it doesn't matter whether a student is in a third or fourth grade classroom because reading levels are individualized for each student.

"We set learning goals for kids, we look at each kid individually and we try to move them as far as we can take them at the rate they can go. They don't all go at the same rate," explained Cafferty. 

That's why third grade teacher Kayla Perry has students reading at all different levels-- from kindergarten to sixth grade.

And to help cater to students' reading abilities-- whether it's picture books or chapter books-- they read books matching their own reading level.

"We have them put into groups based on their ability and we work on specific strategies that they may be missing," said Perry.

If Lautenbaugh's bill is pushed through, Nebraska would join nearly a dozen states with a social promotion ban.