- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona parents won’t know until summer if their third-graders will be held back next school year.

Under the state’s Move On When Reading law, third-graders who perform in the bottom 3 percent on the reading portion of the AzMERIT test are required to repeat the grade. The law doesn’t apply to students with disabilities and English language learners.

This year, however, the test results won’t be released until June 6, and parents won’t know the results until July 11. School officials say parents likely won’t know whether their child has to repeat the grade until about a month before school starts.

The state Board of Education on Monday debated options that would exempt some schools from having to hold students back, but decided it must follow the law as written.

“Districts are very understandably concerned that they’re going to be getting the data late in the game,” said Charles Tack, spokesman for state superintendent Diane Douglas. “There’s a lot of unknown factors, and I think that’s where a lot of the anxiety comes from (with schools).”

A March audit criticized the Move On When Reading program for its lack of oversight and said schools have no way of knowing whether students in the program actually improve.

The timing of the test results being released doesn’t affect efforts to identify struggling readers because most schools have internal assessments to help identify students who need extra support. But administrators are concerned that they won’t be able to notify parents before the next school year begins.

“Our plans are to put ‘pending’ on their report cards, that you’re not promoted or retained until we get the official clarification,” said Suzan DePrez, Mesa Public Schools assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “That would be very difficult for parents to receive a report card without knowing what would happen.”

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