A bill to delay reading level requirements in Alabama public schools for two years passed the Alabama Senate Tuesday.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, would allow third-grade students to up to fourth grade without third-grade reading requirements previously outlined in the Alabama Literacy Act of 2019.
Over the previous regular legislative session and ensuing special sessions in 2021, the legislation has remained a priority for Smitherman, who argues the measure would keep students from failing the third grade due to pandemic-related issues.
If enacted, the bill would delay the third-grade reading requirement to the 2024-2025 school year.
Alabama is one of only 17 states and the District of Columbia that require students not reading at a third-grade level to be retained and repeat the third grade.
Senators rising in opposition to the proposed bill argued it provides no framework to directly aid students with failing reading levels in the third grade, but only an exemption for them being held back.
“Sends a message that in Alabama, we’re okay with not being at grade level and moving on.” said state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston. “I cannot sigh on to that message, And I can sure can’t sign on thinking that I may have contributed down the road for a child’s demise because they are behind in education and possibly never catch up. Because if a child cannot read, they cannot learn.”
Smitherman said that a separate bill sponsored by state Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, would deal directly with regard to teacher preparedness and training for students.
“It is no fault of their own,” Smitherman said. “Not one child who has done anything, or not done something, to put themselves in this situation because of the pandemic we are dealing with.”
The bill passed its roll call 20-12 and moves to a House committee for consideration.