Sou⁠t⁠h Carol⁠i⁠na revamps landmark Read ⁠t⁠o Succeed law 

March 29, 2024

Bryce Fiedler

CALN Founding Member & CALN Board of Directors Secretary

Boy Studying and Reading His Book

In a move to bolster students’ reading ability and better identify those who might be falling behind, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster signed a law earlier this month strengthening the state’s Read to Succeed law. 


To understand the changes at play, let’s first look to the original policy.  

A primary goal behind Read to Succeed, passed in 2014, was to ensure that all students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. It requires third-graders to be held back if they don’t meet the requisite minimum score on the state reading assessment. However, the good news is that struggling students can participate in summer programs to improve their reading skills and avoid retention. 

Why third grade, exactly? Research generally shows that retaining students at this critical juncture who are not reading proficiently can be beneficial in the long term. Moving them ahead before they are ready, the argument goes, will only make life harder as they progress through school.  

One study reported by The74 found that “students who were retained in third grade scored about 18 points higher in English language arts and math in fourth grade than low-performing peers who were not retained.”  

Another point to consider is that the nature of reading changes in the later years of elementary school and beyond. To paraphrase many educators: students go from learning how to read, to reading as a tool for learning.  

Okay, so third grade is important—but should it be the sole focus of early education reading strategies? Evidently, South Carolina policymakers think not, and this led to their decision to expand Read to Succeed as we know it.  


Building on the original policy, the new law establishes summer reading camps for first- and second-graders who don’t show grade-level reading proficiency. And for K-2 students at risk of falling behind, it provides additional daily instruction centered around the “science of reading”—a body of research from varying fields that looks to improve reading instruction.  

WIS10 provides insight from S.C. Sen. Greg Hembree, the bill’s lead sponsor: “What we had happening is your child was already well behind by the time they got to third grade and then it’s you know, kind of ringing the alarm it’s too late.” 

The revised legislation also “strengthens universal screening,” writes ExcelinEd in Action, “to ensure that all K-5 students are screened three times per year and that parents are provided notification of their child’s performance.”   

Overall, the changes look to keep readers on track from an early age, identifying students who need support before they reach third grade and providing resources to help them become successful.