MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Starting this school year in Alabama, third graders who don’t demonstrate a certain level of reading ability may be held back from the fourth grade.

That’s part of the Literacy Act that passed in 2019 and is now fully implemented. Gov. Kay Ivey visited elementary school students Wednesday and stressed the importance of becoming good readers.

Ivey met with second grade classrooms at Dozier Elementary School in Montgomery, handing out books and sharing a message of encouragement to students.

“I want y’all to be good readers, good students and become leaders,” Ivey said.

It’s the first school year the Literacy Act is fully implemented. Part of that means third graders who don’t score above the lowest achievement level on a statewide test for reading may not move on to the fourth grade.

There are, however, a handful of exceptions and some alternate ways students can still move to the next grade. Ivey said the act is important in getting students up to speed.

“They hadn’t been getting up to reading level, so we’ve got to start somewhere,” Ivey said.

The act doesn’t just start assessing reading in third grade. It begins in kindergarten and every year after. Students will be tested throughout each school year, and those scores will help identify who may need more help.

From there, teachers and parents will be involved in further efforts to help a student before he or she gets to the third grade.

Dozier Elementary School Principal Keith Ledyard said he thinks the Literacy Act is a good tool. He said school grades are also an important metric to take into account.

“Because if I’m not reading on grade level, according to the Literacy Act, then I’m not supposed to be promoted,” Ledyard said. “However, my grade could be higher than what the grading, promotion retention say if I earn an A or B in class. But those two things have to align.”

Ivey’s visit is one of several stops she’s made this week to schools that are part of her “Turnaround Schools Initiative.”

It aims to give 15 low-performing elementary schools additional funding and support from the state.