Only eight students in the Greenville County Schools district are being held back this year because of the Read to Succeed Act, according to data board members went over in a committee meeting on Aug. 14.
Read to Succeed, which primarily went into effect this year, requires South Carolina districts to retain third-grade students who score in the lowest benchmark for reading on the SC Ready standardized test if they don’t improve over the summer.
In Greenville this year, 14 percent of third-graders were not meeting grade-level expectations and 5 percent, or 322 students, didn’t score high enough on the SC Ready test to meet the benchmark, according to the district’s data.
Of the 322, only eight are being held back.
Although the threat of retention has increased literacy efforts in districts across the state, the act isn’t strict in requiring retentions, and it doesn’t include all students who scored in the “does not meet” expectations category — only those who scored on the lowest level of it.
Jeff McCoy, associate superintendent for academics, told Greenville County Schools district board members there is a laundry list of “good cause” exemptions a student could qualify for that negates the retention requirement: students with disabilities or individualized education plans; students who have already been retained; students who have limited proficiency in English; students whose academic portfolio shows mastery in reading; and students who show proficiency on an alternate assessment.
Otherwise, students must attend the district’s 16-day summer reading camp and show progress.
The district chose students who needed the camp based on their Fountas and Pinnell reading levels as well as their SC Ready scores, with a total of 505 third-grade students attending reading camps over the summer, although not all of the students attended under the threat of retention, McCoy said.
Of the 322 students who didn’t meet the benchmark score in Greenville, 210 of them immediately qualified for exemptions. The district approved 21 students to be exempt based on their reading portfolios, leaving 91 students who were required to attend the camps. Three students who didn’t attend the camps were held back.
At the end of the camp, 45 students made the necessary MAP standardized test scores to continue to fourth grade and 41 of the students were not retained based on updated portfolio reviews. Five students were held back because they didn’t make enough progress in the camp.
McCoy said the district likely would have retained the students even without Read to Succeed.
“I wouldn’t say we’re retaining more because of Read to Succeed, necessarily,” McCoy told the board. “A school in many cases would have opted for those kids to be retained anyway.”
McCoy said the district tries to retain students who need it in either kindergarten or first grade because research shows students are more likely to drop out of school if they have been retained.
“The longer you wait, it’s even more likely they’re not going to graduate,” McCoy said.