For Parents of Third-Graders

Q: What are the Grade 3 FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics Achievement Level ranges?

For information regarding third grade achievement level ranges and promotion options click here.

Q: Does my child’s FCAT score impact his or her grades or promotion to the next grade?

FCAT does not impact student’s grades; however, it does impact whether or not a 3rd grade student is promoted to the next grade.

In 2002, Florida required retention for students who could not read successfully by the end of the 3rd grade. Students who score at the lowest level on FCAT reading (known as a Level 1) are to be retained unless the student meets a good cause exemption or demonstrates in another way that the student can read successfully.

There are six good cause exemptions identified in law. Many of the exemptions recognize special needs of students with disabilities, English language learners or students who were previously retained. However, there are two additional exemptions provided because Florida recognized that one test given on one day should not be the sole factor in retaining a child.

Students who do not pass the FCAT can move on to the 4th grade by scoring successfully on an alternative test, or by demonstrating reading success through a teacher-administered portfolio of the student’s work during the school year or summer reading camp.

Q: How many 3rd graders will be held back under these tougher standards?

Keeping in mind that some students will be promoted to 4th grade through a good cause exemption, historically less than 10% of all students enrolled that score at Level 1 will be retained.  Those students will need additional help in reaching these new standards, and will be required to repeat 3rd grade. Learning to read is the most critical skill a child learns in the early years of school, and it can truly affect their life’s trajectory. The fact is, students who can’t read in the 3rd grade typically don’t “catch up” in later grades. Instead, they fall further behind. Promoting students who don’t have the skills to succeed is the wrong thing to do.

Q: How can one test on one day determine if a 3rd grader is retained?

One test does not determine whether a 3rd grade student is retained.  There are six good cause exemptions identified in law.  Many of the exemptions recognize special needs of students with disabilities, English language learners or students who were previously retained.  However, there are two exemptions provided because Florida recognized that one test given on one day should not be the sole factor in retaining a child.

Students who do not pass the FCAT can move on to the 4th grade by scoring successfully on an alternative test, or by demonstrating reading success through a teacher-administered portfolio of the student’s reading tests during the school year.

Q: What will happen to retained students and how will schools handle the increase?

School districts are already required by law to give intensive reading instruction to students who are struggling readers in kindergarten through 3rd grade.   Schools are constantly working to provide these students with the help and support they need. Summer reading camps, longer school days, and individualized education planning involving their parents and teachers are just some of the ways that teachers meet the needs of struggling readers.

Children who have not mastered basic reading skills by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than those children who are reading on grade level. However, if you can get a 3rd grader reading proficiently, they will graduate 96 percent of the time.  Holding a student back in order to help them master reading can be painful in the short-term, but is clearly the right thing to do for children over the long haul.

Q:  Is there research on the impact of retention?

Yes.  Research on retention policies that are based on a student’s test score and include intensive reading intervention during the retention year, shows positive effects.

In fact, researchers who have studied Florida’s retention policies have found that retained students perform better in reading and math – even through the 7th grade – than their socially promoted classmates.  The interventions in that second year in 3rd grade improved their reading skills enough to make a big difference.

Q: Why does Florida have a 3rd grade reading policy?

Researchers at the Annie E. Casey Foundation have found that 88 percent of the students who dropped out of high school could not read by the end of 3rd grade.

Students who cannot read successfully by the end of 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of high school than students who can read.

Low-income African American and Hispanic students who can’t read successfully by the end of 3rd grade are 8 times more likely to drop out of high school than students who can read.

From kindergarten through 3rd grade, students are learning how to read.  Beginning in 4th grade the text and assignments that are required for students to read and complete are more difficult.

Textbooks become more difficult to understand, reading passages are longer, and questions are harder. Students use reference books, websites, and other written materials to do research for history reports, science projects, and other schoolwork. Students who have trouble understanding what they read find it very difficult to keep up. Many students become frustrated when they try to tackle this schoolwork without the necessary reading skills.

So, Florida adopted a policy to guarantee our students have the fundamental reading skills in order to be successful in 4th grade and beyond, where the rigors of reading in other subject areas increase drastically.