Nancy Flanagan: Don’t Punish Schools or Kids if Johnny Can’t Read; Invest in Them

Diane Ravitch's blog

Nancy Flanagan takes issue with the reformer idea of failing kids who can’t read by the end of third grade. Holding them back will not help them, she writes, and will almost certainly hurt them. Children learn to read at different ages. Some start reading before kindergarten. Others read later. Years later, it doesn’t matter.

She writes:

Michigan’s third grade mandatory retention legislation is a dramatic but useless remedy to the problem of children who struggle to read when they’re eight or nine years old. We’re not doing kids favors by flunking them. Says educational psychologist David Berliner, regents professor of education at Arizona State University:

“It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental.”

What about the oft-repeated platitude that until third grade, students learn to read—and read to learn afterwards? Perhaps that was true in…

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