ASK THE EXPERTS

Will My Third-Grader Advance to Fourth Grade?

By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator

Question:

I have a third-grader who reads at a first- or second-grade level. She might not pass the third grade and that would be a catastrophe! (Self-esteem, embarrassment, defeat). I changed schools this year in the hope that it would help. I am very afraid for her, but I try not to show it. How do I help her?

Answer:

There are several possible interventions, so consider any or all of the following:

  • Plan a teacher conference. The first action to take is to ask the teacher about your daughter's performance. I would be surprised if her teacher doesn't have some advice if your child is reading below grade level and in jeopardy of not advancing to fourth grade.
  • Request testing.  Public schools provide additional support to students who qualify for it. To determine if your daughter qualifies for these services, request that she be tested. The outcome of these assessments can possibly show that she qualifies for additional services to help improve her reading abilities. For example, she might be referred to a resource specialist who can work with her one-on-one or in a small group setting with other struggling readers. Some struggling students do not qualify for services based on test results, so talk with the teacher about modifications that can be made in the classroom. Furthermore, you might try the tutoring suggestion below.
  • Consider tutoring.  Some schools have tutoring centers on campus during lunch or before or after school. If this is not an offering, ask your child's teacher for a recommendation or network to find a private tutor within your budget or local community organization that offers tutoring at low or no cost. There are also tutoring companies you might investigate that offer a range of services. Some provide testing and evaluations to personalize sessions, while others provide only one-on-one or small-group tutoring.

I would advise against changing schools again as this will not solve the problem. Instead, confront the situation directly and work collaboratively with teachers and other professionals to get the support your daughter needs.  Once she feels progress is made in developing both a plan to improve her reading skills and recognizes improvement in reading at a higher level, she'll feel better about herself and her skills.

Kathy Glass, a former middle school teacher, is an educational consultant and author focusing on curriculum and instruction. She wrote Curriculum Design for Writing Instruction: Creating Standards-Based Lesson Plans and Rubrics (© 2005, Corwin Press) and Curriculum Mapping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Curriculum Year Overviews. Currently she is writing a book with Carol Tomlinson and other authors of the Parallel Curriculum Model. She can be contacted through her Web site.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.