Here are some common questions and our responses.
1. What does Arizona’s Move on When Reading law say about third grade retention?
The exact language says that a pupil can be retained if he or she “obtains a score on the reading portion of the Arizona instrument to measure standards test, or a successor test, that demonstrates that the pupil's reading falls far below the third grade level or the equivalent as established by the board.”
2. Are there any exceptions?
Yes. There is one exception for English language learners, and another related to certain categories of students with disabilities.
3. What does the exception for students with disabilities say?
The exception related to students with disabilities allows for promotion of a student who:
“…is in the process of a special education referral or evaluation for placement in special education or a pupil who has been diagnosed as having a significant reading impairment, including dyslexia or a pupil who is a child with a disability as defined in section 15-761 if the pupil's individualized education program team and the pupil's parent or guardian agree that promotion is appropriate based on the pupil's individualized education program.”
4. So who, exactly, is eligible for this exception?
The following students are eligible for the disability exception to the grade retention requirement of Move on When Reading:
- A student who is in the “process of a special education referral or evaluation for placement in special education”
- A student who has been diagnosed as having a significant reading impairment
- A student who has been diagnosed as having dyslexia
- A student who has any other disability, if that student has an IEP and the IEP team and the parents agree that “promotion is appropriate”
5. How does the law define “dyslexia”?
The law defines dyslexia as “a brain-based learning difference that impairs a person's ability to read and spell, that is independent of intelligence and that typically causes a person to read at levels lower than expected.”
6. My child has a 504 plan for dyslexia. Is he/she eligible for an exception?
Yes, assuming you can show that your child has been diagnosed with a significant reading impairment or dyslexia.
7. My child doesn’t have an IEP or a Section 504 plan, but I suspect he/she may have dyslexia or some other significant reading impairment. I cannot afford to get a private evaluation. Can my child still be retained?
It depends. If you suspect your child has a disability, including a reading disability, you have a legal right to request an evaluation for special education under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). If you request an evaluation, your child could be promoted based on the exception for those “in the process of a special education referral or evaluation for placement in special education.”
For further information about how to request a special education evaluation, please refer to pages 11-12 of the self-advocacy guide provided by the Arizona Center for Disability Law.
8. Can I use a private evaluation that shows my child has a significant reading impairment or dyslexia to demonstrate that my child is eligible for the exception to third grade retention?
9. When should I talk to my child’s school about my concerns about third grade retention?
The timing of your discussions with your school is a matter entirely within your discretion. If you or your child is worried or concerned about the possibility of grade retention, it may give you peace of mind to discuss the situation with the school (or the IEP team, if applicable) sooner rather than later.
We hope this post has provided the clarification you need.