Move On When Reading

Learning to read is a student’s most important educational challenge, and third grade is a crucial milestone, because so much of a student’s learning in later grades depends on their ability to read and understand what they’re reading. Research shows that reading proficiency at the end of third grade is a strong predictor of future academic success, including high school graduation.

Arizona’s Move On When Reading policy is a combination of state laws that help public and charter schools provide evidence-based, effective reading instruction for students in kindergarten through third grade and to identify and support students with reading challenges as early and effectively as possible. Move On When Reading provides an average of approximately $145 per K-3 student to schools and districts for staffing, instructional materials, assessments, and professional development; the majority of funding is spent on staffing, which may include salaries for K-3 teachers, reading coaches, and literacy specialists.

Move On When Reading includes A.R.S. §15-701, A.R.S. §15-704, and A.R.S. §15-211 (as amended by HB2026).

What Schools are Required to Do

Arizona law A.R.S.§15-704 states that districts or charters are required to:

  • Have a comprehensive K-3 assessment system
  • Provide for universal screening of pupils in preschool through third grade programs to identify students who have reading difficulties, including a screener for indicators of dyslexia
  • Have an evidence-based reading curriculum
  • Provide explicit instruction and intensive intervention
  • Send out an annual written notice to K-3 parents about the policy
  • Send a second letter to students scoring “well below” on assessments throughout the year
  • Send a notification with guidance for students who are identified as having indicators of dyslexia

For parents of students that have been identified as having difficulties with reading, a separate written notification is sent that includes:

  • Description of current reading services provided to pupil
  • Description of supplemental services to be provided
  • Parental strategies to assist student in attaining reading proficiency
  • Retention statement and explanation of exemption policy
  • Description of district or charter policy on mid-year promotion to a higher grade

Third Grade Retention Policy

In addition to supporting effective reading instruction in the early grades, Move On When Reading also includes a retention policy, requiring that a student not be promoted from third grade to fourth grade if he or she “does not demonstrate sufficient reading skills” on the state’s third grade English Language Arts assessment, which indicates that a child is reading at a much lower level than is expected of a third grader and needs additional help. The purpose of this policy is to give children who have significant reading challenges more time to learn and to provide each struggling reader with the specific instruction and interventions they need to catch up. (“Interventions” are programs, strategies or activities provided in addition to regular reading curriculum designed to help students build specific literacy skills.)

Retention focused on providing increased intensive interventions is just one component of Arizona’s comprehensive policies and strategies for improving third grade reading outcomes in our state. The retention policy impacts less than 3% of all third graders in Arizona each year. A student may not be retained more than once.


If a student scores well below the requirements on the third grade reading assessment (“does not demonstrate sufficient reading skills”), they may still be eligible for promotion to fourth grade through one of several “good cause exemptions.” Such as, if the student:

  • Is an English language learner (ELL) or limited English proficient student (LEP) who has had fewer than three years of English language instruction
  • Is in the process of a special education referral or has been diagnosed as having a reading impairment, including dyslexia
  • Is a child with a disability and his/her school’s Individualized Education Program team members agree that promotion is appropriate
  • Demonstrates sufficient reading skills or adequate progress in reading as evidenced through a collection of reading assessments approved by the State Board of Education
  • Receives intervention and remedial services during the summer or subsequent year and demonstrates sufficient reading progress

Learn more about Move On When Reading from the Arizona Department of Education at

If Your Child is Held Back in Third Grade

Retention does not mean that your child has failed. It does not mean that teachers or parents are not working hard enough. It means that your child needs more time and help to catch up and read at grade level.

Move On When Reading ensures that students who are retained will get the support they need. This may include:

  • Intensive reading instruction before, during, or after the regular school day
  • A different teacher assigned for reading instruction
  • Summer school reading instruction
  • Small group, teacher-led reading instruction, which may include computer-based learning

Resources for Families

Get more information on Move On When Reading and how you can support your child’s learning:

Read On Arizona’s Early Literacy Guide for Families (bilingual)

Dylsexia Resource Guide For Families: English | Spanish

Arizona Dept. of Education’s Move On When Reading Info for Parents & Guardians

Data Analysis

Read about the factors that influence third grade reading proficiency in Arizona:

Move On When Reading: How School Literacy Plans Connect to Third-Grade Reading Achievement