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Third Grade Reading Laws: Their Importance and Impact on Students with Learning Disabilities and Attention Issues

• ExcelinEd

Today’s guest post is by Meghan Casey. She serves as Policy Research and Advocacy Associate at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Students who aren’t able to read by third grade have a higher chance of falling behind or dropping out of school. In fact, an Annie E. Casey Foundation report found nearly 90 percent of all students who dropped out of school were struggling to read in third grade. Third grade reading is an important predictor of later success. Knowing this information provides an opportunity to intervene before reading difficulties become a more serious problem for students later in school.

Over the past decade or so, more than 30 states have passed laws creating third grade reading programs, many of which also include a retention component. Because students with disabilities – including learning disabilities and attention issues – have unique needs, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) and the Learning Disability Association of America (LDA) came together to explore how these laws might impact these students. NCLD and LDA researched the state laws, discussed the issues and interviewed experts in the field, including parent advocates.


Experts agree that many students with Individualized Education Programs can meet grade-level reading standards. Even students with reading disabilities can learn to read when provided with appropriate services, instruction and supports. That’s why we believe that students with disabilities, as a whole, should not be exempt from any third grade reading program. Failing to include students with disabilities can allow poor reading instruction for these students go undetected. It can reinforce the idea that students with disabilities should have different expectations than those in general education. We must not turn away from these students. Instead, we should provide the services and supports needed to help them reach the same standards as their peers.

Third grade reading laws can be an effective tool to set students on a path to succeed. These laws and the programs they create don’t simply hold students back a year; they provide more time, intensive supports and tailored intervention to help students gain the reading skills they need. When schools couple effective literacy instruction with quality teacher training and then provide targeted interventions for struggling readers, very few students should leave third grade unprepared for the years ahead.

For best practices in third grade reading policies and to learn more about how these laws can affect students with learning and attention issues, download NCLD and LDA’s infographic and recommendations on these policies.

Meghan Casey serves as Policy Research and Advocacy Associate at National Center for Learning Disabilities.



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