Third-graders in Illinois could face the biggest test of their early school careers if a new bill passes.
Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, proposed legislation, HB4424, to require all Illinois school districts to fail third-graders if those students are not reading at or above grade level. Under the measure, it would begin with the kindergarten class entering the 2016-2017 school year.
The former District 60 school board member told the News-Sun the goal is to prevent the young students from falling further behind as they continue in school.
"If kids are pushed up when they're not reading at grade level, their chances to graduate are very slim," said Mayfield.
Some Chicago-area educators are applauding the mission to improve reading skills, but are expressing concern about holding eight-year-old girls and boys back.
"The concept of the bill is good. That's everyone's goal, to ensure that all students are reading at grade level by third grade," said Gurnee School District 56 Superintendent John Hutton. "The punitive part of the bill, retention of the student, is a terrible idea."
Another part of the legislation would give authority to the Illinois Board of Education to reassign students or district officials if more than 10 percent of a school's third-graders missed the reading mark and were held back.
Mayfield insisted her proposal is not designed to discipline school districts.
It remains unclear how the state would set the reading level for third-graders, but Mayfield said she wants to give school districts flexibility for them to decide whether students should repeat the third grade or move to fourth grade.