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Ask the Experts

Will My Third-Grader Advance to Fourth Grade?

By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator


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?


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.

Comments from readers

"I just got back from having to visit my sister out of state, my daughter attended school there in Oklahoma but I am just now getting her back in school. I need to know what to do to get her enrolled here at Wheatley School? She's in 3rd grade and we have been studying..."
"as parents we always try to blame the teachers for what are kids don't learn. Are you doing something to help your child read better at home. If you don't take the time to help your child there is so much the teachers can do. We as parents have to work with them at home. It is not only the teachers responsibility. It works both ways. "
"Hello, Please, I need your advise, my son is3 grader on CTT Class, now the school asking me to move him to 12:1:1 class because his on reading level c, and the said may be he can repeat the grade. I refuse to take him back to that class because he was in 12:1:1 on Kindergarten then he moved to CTT Class and now his on 3 grade, because I', afraid for his progress. Please help me and tell me what to do. Mom "
"I saw in first grade that my son was having trouble. The teacher right off said, 'he's not finishing his work because he doesn't want to.' I gently told her this wasn't possible. All my son wants to do is please the teacher. I was willing to accept I might be wrong. After continued comments from teacher I had my son tested at a learning center. He showed signs of having a learning disability. I took this to the school, learned he was in the tier program and at the final meeting was told by his teacher that she felt he was successful at tier 3 which meant he would come out of the tier program altogether. The support person I brought with me questioned the teacher and asked if my son produced work when he was kept in from recess that was indicative of a child that knew what he was doing and she said, 'no, not really but I can tell what he meant to write.' :0 Needless to say, he was kept at tier 3 and another meeting was scheduled. We were two weeks from the end of school. I called to say I questioned those who would be at the next meeting since they were all ready to pass him off at the first one. The woman in charge changed her tone altogether and said, 'Are you asking to have your son tested?' My reply was yes of course. That was all I'd ever wanted. Three days before school was out the test showed he had a 127 IQ. They didn't however show his severe written expression problem because the test are geared for normal children not gifted ones. We did second grade with a teacher of my choice who'd accomadate my son's problem but was told by her not to expect much better than the first grade teacher as I moved on. Well, here we are in third grade. The process has started all over again. He's on tier 3 at my insistance and in Pathways because of his IQ. He does the work he knows how to do and is rentlessly told to foucs and try hard! er on the work he absolutely can't do because the first grade test were to easy to show his problem. I send him to school everyday telling him just do what you can do and ignore the teacher when she tells you to try harder on something I've already told her you can't do. They're trying to get you help. His written expression problem is so bad, he runs from the room crying if I ask him to compose a sentence. Asking him to write from the board or write down sentences is like asking a blind person to read. The disadvantage to written expression disorder is that you can't see it. You can see when someone's blind. Because of his high IQ he continually surpasses the expectations that show he should be tested. The benchmarks are not geared for someone with a high IQ. Sad. Very sad."
"Tutoring? State assessments are geared towards the performance of the school. If the overall school does well, thier funding is limited. "
"My 3rd grader reads at a 2nd grade level. She took the Iowa test and scored a composite of 25% which put her grade equivalency at 2nd grade. We saw the problem last year and requested additional testing then. But the school refused because she had good grades. We are fortunate enough to have a teacher this year who is working with us but it has been very frustrating. According to the school even after the Iowa scores she still does not qualify for assistance."
"Great suggestions! My daughter is in the 2nd grade and was struggling with reading. They have put her in a reading group with 6 other children every day for 1/2 hour and it has done wonders. She is reading 3 grade levels better in just 3 months and is now right where she needs to be. I am not pulling her out of the group though because I want to make sure she is strong with her reading. Good luck"
"Hi, My son had exactly the same problem. We changed schools last year and went from private to public. My son did OK in private school A's & B's, however once he started in public school, they unearthed that he had reading difficulties. His teacher has been absolutely wonderful, very encouraging with my son and myself, he has special reading lessons at school and is coming on in leaps and bounds. We are both very happy."
"I read the above question and answer and it reeks of my daughter. Unfortunately, she has had extra help from the school for 2 years as well as tutoring this year and while she has improved she still is so far behind I think she will need held back. Passing kids when they should fail does nothing for anyone. The child struggles and the teachers can't teach the other kids as they are busy spending time with the kids who are struggling."