Of the 15,000 students set to attend Memphis-Shelby County Schools Enrichment Camps this summer, at least hundreds of students will need to attend to advance to third grade.

The borough plans to enroll first and foremost CE2 students who need to improve their reading skills as part of the “commitment third” policy implemented this school year.

Like a State third grade retention law Scheduled to take effect next school year, the district policy requires second-graders to achieve 8 points on a 12-point scale designed to assess literacy milestones.

“Third year is too late”:SCS to move forward with sophomore reading retention policy

It’s a policy intended to improve the reading performance of some of the district’s youngest students, in the years when researchers say learning to read is most important. In explaining the impacts of the policy, district and school leaders described a cycle they say starts with low literacy and can end up missing high school graduation, incarceration and poverty.

In recent years before the pandemic, about a quarter of third-grade students in the district were reading at the grade level. That figure fell to 14% last year, with even fewer of the district’s economically disadvantaged and English-learning students reading on track, far from a target of 90% in 2025. The neighborhood recently revised the objective 74% of students reading on track for college by 2030.

Reagan Featherson, 6, right, and Spencer Brice Kimble, 7, work on an art project detailing the four seasons during Treadwell Elementary School's Summer Academy on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

Although the district is “held harmless” for the results, these scores and more recent tests indicate that students suffered losses in reading and recovery did not rebound as quickly as in math. Districts across the country have similar stories of their students, and for many, reading scores were falling before the pandemicthat the experts said widened existing achievement gaps.

Recent test results show that pandemic disruptions have impacted first- and second-grade students learning to read more than their kindergarten and third-grade counterparts. Sophomores this school year were sent home two years ago from kindergarten as the pandemic took hold, and many have spent most of the first year learning virtually at the MSCS.

Continued:Pandemic first graders are way behind in reading. Experts say they can take years to catch up.

How the MSCS Measures Reading Success for Second Grade Students

By creating its own policy for sophomores, the district anticipates some of the far-reaching impacts anticipated for the state law by tailoring its second-degree remediation to some of the law’s exceptions to retention. Previously retained students are exempt from third-year retention, for example, as are students who have attended a number of summer camps or tutoring.

Continued:SCS students continue to face more learning loss in math than reading, state scores show

For the MSCS policy for sophomores, called the “Third-Year Commitment” or “3GC” by the district, report card grades and quarterly assessments earn a student points on the criteria. Any student who passes the state’s TCAP test for reading at the end of the year will advance to third grade, regardless of their score on other criteria.

Students who do not score at least 8 points are not automatically retained. Instead, there are two tracks: one for students with final grades in reading of 70% or higher and the other for students with final grades below 70%.

In either case, as long as students complete the required number of summer courses, they will advance to third year. Depending on the number of tests showing they have learned during summer school, they may need tutoring in the third year.

Second-year students will only be accepted if they do not obtain 8 points on the criteria and do not attend the summer school.

Teacher Jana Blount works with her first grade students during the Treadwell Elementary School Summer Academy on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

Families can use a document found on the district website to determine how their student meets the criteria and what corrective action is needed to avoid being held back.

Continued:MSCS school board member Stephanie Love, known for her fierce advocacy, is recovering from stroke

Schools invited families of second-graders to virtual and in-person meetings in January and shared with families how their child is doing so far. Targeted, one-on-one communication will be key to getting the most out of the policy and getting students up to speed, board member Stephanie Love told the district in February.

“I don’t have the data, but I’m willing to bet a lot of students who aren’t in grade level are also students who have chronic truancy issues or truancy issues. And we have struggling to reach those parents,” Love said. “So how are we going to reach the parents that we haven’t been able to reach to even get their kids to school, to get them involved in a way that will be beneficial?”

Continued:Who will be joining the MSCS School Board this month? Here’s who could represent South Memphis

Former council member Shante Avant and current council chair Michelle McKissack also urged the district to be as proactive as possible in talking with families about what might be required of their sophomores.

As sophomores’ growth improves, success hasn’t caught up

Director of Studies Jaron Carson told council members in February that the winter tests would indicate how many students were likely to be affected by the commitment in Year Three.

“I want us to really get out of the retention conversation because it’s not about retention with the third-year commitment,” he said. “It’s about intervention and support.”

In March, the district presented the winter test results students.

Testing data shows students are bouncing back from pandemic-related losses but still falling behind academically.

Emily Wakabi with her student Peytan Tate during an in-person learning session at Libertas School in Memphis on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

Second graders show the strongest growth in reading, compared to kindergarten, first and third graders, according to the data, with average growth slightly above the national median. But their achievement is lower than that of their national peers. MSCS Kindergarten and Grade 3 students perform closer to national medians.

Median Lexile scores, a reading measure that is part of the engagement criteria, are lower than national mid-year averages for students in grades 2 through 5. Grade two students had the largest gap, with a Lexile score of 25. To meet the criteria, students need a Winter Lexile score of 420.

It is unclear how many second-graders will be affected by the policy.

While officials shared a projected capacity of 15,000 students who could come to the summer learning academy, the district did not respond to requests asking how many sophomores will be.

Spelling tests on the sidewalk, fancy dress days:How Memphis Summer School brought students back to class

Sophomores will be given priority in enrollment, Shawn Page, head of academic operations and academic support, told council members this month. Camp locations have already been chosen and registration should open within the next two weeks.

The camp, created to move from first to eighth grade, has been around for several years and has grown, especially in the last year, as heads of state sought ways to codify learning remediation at the aftermath of the pandemic and provided the districts with funds for summer schools.

Cordarius Jones raises his hand to answer a question during the Summer Learning Academy at Treadwell Elementary School on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

Formerly known as the Superintendent’s Learning Academy, the camp is for learning enrichment and is separate from the regular summer school for students who need to make up failed classes to advance to the next class. MSCS expects 9,000 students in the summer school and another 1,000 in the gifted summer camps.

Superintendent Joris Ray said at the March committee meeting that the district is working to make summer camp an enrichment program that appeals to families, contrary to the stigma of a summer program. intervention or remediation.

“It’s about exposing our kids to a great learning opportunity,” Ray said.

Laura Testino covers education and childhood issues for the trade appeal. Contact her at [email protected] or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestino