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South Carolina signs new reading initiative into law

MONDAY, JUNE 23, 2014 10:32 AM

While the Common Core State Standards contain educational goals for reading, some legislators would like to see even more emphasis placed on the subject in schools. This is in part because reading test scores, as measured by the National Assessment for Educational Progress, did not improve between the 2011 and 2013 exams. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has signed a measure into law that will hopefully change that. The governor signed the Read to Succeed Act on June 11. The measure is designed to ensure students reach a certain reading level by the end of third grade.

Working toward early reading success
The bill focuses on aiding students between kindergarten and fourth grade. South Carolina already has an all-day kindergarten program for at-risk 4-year-olds, and the new law will help expand the program's reach. Read to Succeed more specifically aims to ensure students have the reading foundation they need by the time they enter fourth grade. Schools will assess students entering kindergarten to try to identify and address language problems early on. Furthermore, the law will place students in an intensive reading program if they can't read by the time they complete third grade. The program will also provide those students with reading coaches and place them in summer reading camps. 

Haley noted that students who can't read by fourth grade tend to fair worse in high school than their peers and are more likely to drop out.

"That changes now because we are now going to say that no child will move forward past the third grade if they can't read," Haley told the Associated Press.

Making changes in reading education
The Read to Succeed Act is scheduled to go into effect in South Carolina Schools during the 2017-2018 school year. Legislators who worked on or supported the bill believe that the expansion of the kindergarten program will be critical to the law's success. By expanding the reading kindergarten program to reach more students, it will have a greater impact on South Carolina education.  

The 2013 NAEP exam scores revealed that only 38 percent of students who took the reading portion of the exam could read at a proficient level. This percentage has remained about the same since 2009, and has decreased since the 1998 assessments. As the Common Core State Standards have only recently been fully implemented by some states, educators wonder if future NAEP reading scores will reflect the changes. South Carolina will have to wait even longer to see whether the new law will improve reading scores.