Colubmia, SC (WLTX) - Tuesday marked the start of the year for many Midlands students, but it's also the start of a new reading policy that could affect your kids.

The Department of Education has implemented a new policy that could hold back your third grade child. At the end of the year, third graders are required to take the SC Ready test to prove that they learned enough throughout the school year to go to the fourth grade.

Heather McCue with the Richland County Library says the third grade is an important year.

"Kindergarten to third grade is really about skill building and then beyond third grade we're reading for comprehension," McCue said. "So we need to read to be able to understand things like the solar eclipse."

If your kids don't pass the reading portion of the SC Ready test, they could be held back instead of moving on to the fourth grade.

We dug through some information from the Department of Education to find out the percentage of students in Midlands school districts with more than 12 elementary schools that do not meet the standards of the English portion of the test.

In the 2015-2016 school year, Richland District One was at 31 percent, followed by Sumter at 30 percent. Richland Two is next with 21 percent, and Richland and Lexington District Five had the lowest of the schools sitting at only 12 percent.

McCue says reading to your kids can make all the difference.

"Helping your child associate reading with pleasure and that may be reading aloud to them, as much as parents think that it's not something that children value, they love spending time with their parents," she say. "When you put the child in your lap and start reading a book, everything else kind of starts to melt away."

The Department of Education says that five percent of third graders were eligible to be held back during the 2015-2016 school year.

Ryan Brown with the department says there are some other factors that they will consider before holding a child back if they don't pass the test. Ryan Brown says good causes to exempt students from retention is as follows:

  • with limited English proficiency and less than two years of instruction in English as a Second Language program;
  • with disabilities whose Individual Education Plan (IEP) indicates the use of alternative assessments or alternative reading interventions;
  • with disabilities whose IEP or Section 504 Plan reflects that the student has received intensive remediation in reading for more than two years but still does not substantially demonstrate reading proficiency;
  • who demonstrate third grade reading proficiency on an alternative assessment approved by the board and which teachers may administer following the administration of the state assessment of reading;
  • who have received two years of reading intervention and were previously retained;
  • who through reading portfolio documentation demonstrate the mastery of the state standards in reading that is equal to at least one level above the lowest achievement level on the state reading assessment; and
  • who successfully participate in a Read to Succeed Summer Reading Camp (SRC) at the conclusion of the third grade year and demonstrate through either a reading portfolio or through a norm-referenced, alternative assessment approved by the SCDE, that their mastery of the state standards in reading is equal to at least a level above the lowest level on the state reading assessment.

McCue says to be safe, let your kids use their free time for the better.

"Because they get a lot of assigned reading from school, let them read whatever they want. If it's a magazine, if it's a graphic novel, if they want to listen to a book, it all goes into reading. That all ties into literacy."

To see how your child's school district performed in the SC Ready test, go to the SC Department of Education page.