MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Educators say they're concerned about a new reading test they say could result in thousands of Alabama third-graders being held back.
The test is the result of a new state law, Al.com reported. It requires third-graders to read on grade level starting with the 2021-22 school year in order to advance to fourth grade.
Critics say the testing will result in students with disabilities and English language learners to be held back.
This year's first-graders have three years to get ready for the make-or-break reading test.
At a recent meeting in Montgomery, Decatur Superintendent Michael Douglas questioned the timeline, asking "Why are we rushing?"
If teachers are not properly trained, it could become a "big train wreck," Douglas said.
Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey said he's heard concerns about the law and when it will kick in.
"It's an ambitious timeline," Mackey said, "and I think that's what has people nervous."
But state Rep. Alan Baker, who co-sponsored the law, said that pushing back the 2021-22 deadline isn't an option.
"Retreating, to me, is not an option," The Brewton Republican said. Rather than retreating, he said, "Moving forward to get educators to aggressively engaged in advancing the science of reading — we've got to stay on track."
The law requires schools and districts to provide extra support to students not reading on grade level, beginning in kindergarten. Reading interventions and summer camps — neither of which come with state funding yet — are also required.
While the law requires third-graders not reading on grade level to be held back, exceptions can be granted for some children, including English language learners and students with disabilities who have received intense support for two years and have already been held back once.
It will likely take 10 to 12 years to see all the outcomes related to improving students' ability to read, which include things beyond test scores, said Jacksonville State University Education Dean Tommy Turner.
"It takes a little while to put water in the ocean to raise the whole ship," Turner said. "That's not going to be done overnight."