Can state retention policies prod improvement and create a focus on reading?

Despite a century of research, educators continue to argue over whether it helps or hurt students to hold them back when they perform below grade level.

A recent panel sponsored by the Center on Children and Families at Brookings Institution explored the retention vs. social promotion divide. On the side of retention — at least as part of a comprehensive reform strategy — was Harvard professor and Mitt Romney campaign education adviser Martin R. West, who reviewed the research on social promotion and grade retention and the Florida results for a Brookings policy brief.

Since 2003, Florida has required that third graders scoring at the lowest level on state reading tests be held back and given intense remediation.

Compared with similar students who were not retained, the retained kids were 11 percentage points less likely to be retained one year after they were initially held back and roughly 4 percentage points less likely to be retained in each of the following three years, according to West. As a result, students retained in third grade after five years are only 0.7 grade levels behind their peers who were immediately promoted to grade four.

While West agrees that the short-term benefits of retention diminish over time, “the retained students continue to perform markedly better than their promoted peers when tested at the same grade level and, assuming they are as likely to graduate high school, stand to benefit from an additional year of instruction. These factors may increase the likelihood of enduring benefits.”

But researcher and fellow panelist Shane Jimerson of the University of California Santa Barbara opposed retention in any form, explaining, “Among over 1,000 analysis of achievement and adjustment outcomes during the past 100 years, there are few that reveal significant positive effects associated with grade retention.Whereas short-term gains, for instance, during the repeated year and possibly the following year, are occasionally documented, the long-term effects through middle school and high school are either neutral and/or deleterious. And grade retention has emerged as one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout.”

Jimerson said Florida introduced many interventions along with retention and it has not yet been shown — which all panelists agreed — whether these other elements may have been the causes of the state’s improved reading performance.

He noted that the other elements — summer school, putting retained students with high-performing teachers, an intense reading focus in the classroom, progress monitoring, parent engagement — have been proven to be effective.

“Whereas many of the other components in the Florida program are empirically based and laudable, retention is not,” he said.

Misgivings over retention have not ended the practice.

New data from U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights shows that 2.3 percent of all students in 7,000 districts — which represent 85 percent of all children in U.S. public schools — were retained at the close of the 2009-10 school year.

Only 1 percent of those students were in elementary or middle school, and most repeated kindergarten or the first grade. The federal data found retention highest among black and Hispanic students.

Retaining a student is costly. With the national per-pupil spending average at $10,700, the price tag for retaining 2.3 percent of the 50 million public school students exceeds $12 billion a year. That amount excludes the costs of remedial services for students or their delayed earnings from entering the job market a year later.

But panelist Mary Laura Bragg, who helped craft and put Florida’s prevention/retention policy into practice under then-Gov. Jeb Bush and now works with his nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education, said the goal was never retention except as a last resort.

The intent of Florida’s policy was to prod schools into improving their k-3 classes so retention was not necessary in third grade, she said.

A former high school history teacher, Bragg said, “I have seen the vacant stare of a ten10th grader when the student is asked to read out loud or discuss something they read. I’ve been a recipient of victims of social promotion.”

In the four years she directed Florida’s policy, Bragg said she witnessed a “sea change in reading instruction in grades k-3. It’s a shame that the threat of retention is what got elementary schools doing what their primary focus is — to teach kids how to read.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

74 comments Add your comment

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
9:32 am

I believe Maureen is right when she says “It’s a shame that the threat of retention is what got elementary schools doing what their primary focus is — to teach kids how to read.”

Reading is fundamental. When one can read one can learn almost anything else. I think it is ridiculous that we teach our children trivial items such as black history in kindergarten. The kids need to read first before studying history.
When a child can read, then they can learn about history, anyone’s history. I didn’t have history nor social studiies until the third grade. My K through 2 grades were spent learning to read and learning arithmetic. We also explored the arts with painting and clay working and lots of physical exercise.

Save history and social studies for grades three and higher, when the children can read about it and save k-2 for reading, writing and arithmetic.

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
9:39 am

Bragg is also write when he or she says ” “I have seen the vacant stare of a ten10th grader when the student is asked to read out loud or discuss something they read. I’ve been a recipient of victims of social promotion.”
I went to high school with those vacant stares and it made my classes excrutiatingly boring. Try slogging through “Great Expections” in tenth grade English class by reading a paragraph at at a time by a functional illiterate.

We had to read aloud, one paragraph per student, each taking a turn. It felt excrutiating and I know the illiterate student felt humiliated. In a fifty minute class we might read at most, two pages of Charles Dickens’ story, Great Expectations.
Social promotion not only is bad for the illiterate student, it was bad for the average and above average students.

Maureen Downey

August 24th, 2012
9:41 am

@Pride, That is a quote from Ms. Bragg, who oversaw the initiative in Florida and now works for former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation.

V. Granny

August 24th, 2012
9:45 am

I am against retention. Period. I’m not an educator, nor am I “well educated”, however, I have held onto a very good job for the last 30 years now with plans to retire soon. My son was held back during the early 80’s because he could not pass the 3rd grade test. Second time around in 3rd grade did nothing for him except cause him behavioral issues because he was picked on and laughed at. Fast-forward, he is gainfully employed now; however, had it not been for my ability to get outside help for him with his studies as well as some serious counseling, he would not have made it. Now my grandson is facing the same issue, and once again I plan to step in along with all of the documentation I saved and all the articles that were written back then about this same subject, and I will take all this stuff to the school board and tell them once again, we will not stand for a child to go thru what my own son went thru. The public school system cannot do any more with a child the second time around than they did with them the first time, just collect money, it’s all about the money. These kids will drop right on out and end up being in the court sytems next. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know one thing. When I was in school we were taught by the teacher to read. FACT. We were not yelled at all day long, with the excuse being that this is what kids are use to at home so we as teachers yell at them too. Oh, I’ve heard it all, trust me. Somebody has dropped the ball on our kids. You can blame parents all day long but that won’t stick with me.

Follow the Course

August 24th, 2012
9:55 am

I’m entertaining the thought of the “one-room” school house approach. I know it is not feasible these days but the younger kids learn from the older … and the older teach the younger. This takes away the “grade/retention” issues, just hearing and listening to more advanced topics/subjects and literature.

long time educator

August 24th, 2012
10:09 am

Again, it just makes sense to group by gradeless skill groups for reading and math and not chronological age particularly in the primary grades. If we do that, retention becomes a moot point.


August 24th, 2012
10:17 am

I have mentioned it on this blog before, but perhaps a transition program like Gwinnett uses may be the most effective solution. We allow students to retake only the courses that they struggled with while moving on with the curriculum and their classmates in the other courses that they were successful in.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
10:27 am

If primary schools were ungraded, and we eliminated the age factor as the primary sorting mechanism for children in school, retention would be far less of a “shame” factor. For that matter, schools in general ought to be ungraded within the age-based cohorts for middle and high school . Students should be advanced by mastery of subject skills, not wholesale movement a year at a time based on their birthdays.

It is entirely possible to accomplish this, although it would introduce the element of uncertainty into personnel decisions and require districts to be much more flexible and fluid in their hiring practices. It would affect the ability of a school district to make firm decisions on hiring in August and hold them steady through June 30. It would also make hiring of staff dependent on students’ actual instructional needs, rather than on simple total numbers of kids based on birthdays.

Teachers could respond to the uncertainty by becoming certified in multiple areas. There might be huge demand in the fall at a middle school for reading teachers, leveling off and opening up space for other subject areas. If I’m certified in both reading and art, or music, or Spanish, or technology education, then I can be employed for the full year.

However, if the main purpose of schools is to educate children well…and not to serve as an employment agency for adults…

Inman Park Boy

August 24th, 2012
10:36 am

Bingo Dr. Monica! Well said.

Michael Moore

August 24th, 2012
10:38 am

It’s actually pretty simple when one considers the research that goes back decades. Retention doesn’t work. It never has and “prodding” is threatening. Retention is very effective in insuring a steady number of drop outs. While I’m at it, the research is equally compelling concerning ability grouping by class or subject. Schools grouping their eip students together also insure the poor become poorer. Students need to be among students from all levels. It’s other students they are really learning from. But let’s not let a little research get in the way of political sound bites.

Follow the Course

August 24th, 2012
10:45 am

@Michael Moore … Agreed … the politics of “correctness” and “diversiity” will get in the way.

Racquet Man

August 24th, 2012
10:53 am

When parents hand-off their 4, 5, and 6 yr olds to Pre-K, Kindergarten, and First grade, the academic readiness levels/abilities range from very low to very high. Many are now entering with basic math and “reading” skills, but many also enter not knowing their colors, numbers, letters, and etc. The sources of these ranges of readiness levels can be the developmental stage of the child (some kids are simply not ready to read or count), a disability, or the results of a parallel range of parental engagement, from “reading and counting” religiously to a near total lack of “reading and counting”. Every year, kindergarten and first grade teachers welcome in this wild range of ability levels, maturity levels, and social readiness levels. Most of these teachers are in these grade levels because they are good at it like the challenges.

The bothersome and troubling issue for or me is the source relating to the lack of parental accountability. How long after their 180º turn from the drop-off at school does it take for all of the accountability to shift directly to the teachers? Not long. The student retention debate is very complex, but parental accountability is a tough road to tread and a political nightmare.


August 24th, 2012
11:13 am

Maureen, forgive me if I digress to another topic which you frequently address, the draconian cuts to state funding of public education, but there was no other place on AJC online to appropriately post a comment. I thought about this as I read the article in today’s AJC about how a contract between Art Blank and the GWCC for a new $1 billion stadium will likely be entered into before the end of this year. It will require public financing to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. This special interest project for the very very wealthy is an insult to every Georgia parent whose children are attending public schools whose days have been cut back or teachers furloughed. The same people who are pushing the stadium scam are wringing their hands about having to make hard decisions in funding education because of the state’s dire economic straits. The stadium scam is also an insult to all middle class Georgians who want our state government’s limited resources spent wisely. The stadium scam has been routinely overwhelmingly rejected in many polls to a degree that if presented to voters it would be defeated by an even greater percent than the T-Splost fiasco. Yet, the powers that be continue on as if the public is composed of a bunch of ignorant pawns to be manipulated at will. What arrogance!! They know better than we do what is good for Georgia. It is time for elected officials to stand up and be counted, from Gov. Deal on down. All who do nothing to stop this back-room deal should be turned out of office.

Let children be students, not student teachers

August 24th, 2012
11:24 am

“Students need to be among students from all levels. It’s other students they are really learning from.”

Excuse me, but it is not my daughter’s job to educate a slow-learner child. She is nine. It is her job to be a fourth-grader and to learn the skills and facts that fourth graders do.

This is such baloney. If my daughter picks up her lessons quickly and masters the subject matter more quickly than some of the other students in her class, then she can move on to learning new things. She is a student – it is her job to learn. SHE IS NOT A TEACHER- it is not her job to perform as an unpaid, untrained, underage tutor to someone else’s kid.


August 24th, 2012
11:25 am

Well, the truth of the matter is that kids who need to be retained, whether they actually are or not, will not finish. It isn’t the retention–it is what the kid has to work with (or didn’t). Most third grade (or even earlier) teachers can tell you which kids won’t finish.

What retention does it is spares the child even more frustration and anger, as they see themselves drifing further and further behind their peers. It also helps the grade-level peers of the student, as the needy student demands more and more of the teacher attention.

I am teaching several students right now who are YEARS behind (pretty sad when you are in 2nd- 4th grades!) They are getting multiple interventions from some of the most experienced teachers, but at the end of the year will be promoted, significantly behind their peers. Eventually, they will be behavior problems as well.

We need to accept that sometimes it takes longer, with much greater effort, for one person to learn something than it does another. School should not be an assemblyline; many students can do in 4 years what another needs 6 to accomplish.

You know, before we had CRCT, we had another “firm rule” that kids would not be promoted if they had not reached certain goals. It was ignored, so the legislature came up with the gateway grades of 3, 5, and 8 for CRCT, and THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS! Ha. Look how that turned out.


August 24th, 2012
12:01 pm

Mo, The answer to your topic, I am unsure of. However if the State’s many School systems had an extra infusion of State Funds of $430 million dollars, I am sure they could address this issue and provide a way to improve many other areas.

But we are not faced with a choice to allow those same funds to be spent on a New
untested, unproven Big Government Ran Education Charter School Plan. A plan where only the politicians are privy too with their all knowing guidance. Its a good thing we are unable to think for ourselves. Where would We be, without the politicians all knowing Wisdom.

One thing I do know about the Plan. it’s not GOOD for ALL of the States children Education Goals! An unknown select group of students, will be selected for all of the planned schools. Maybe Your Child……Maybe Not. Odds, it will not Be Your Child.

Hillbilly D

August 24th, 2012
12:07 pm

Reading is the most important thing that is taught in schools, in my opinion. If they haven’t been taught to read, they aren’t going to be successful at the other subjects, either. It does them no favors to promote them along, when they aren’t ready to be promoted. All those years ago when I was in school, the most often repeated grade was 1st grade. A lot of those kids (usually there would be one or two from a class) caught up and did fairly well. They might not have turned out to be validictorians but they learned to read and went on to finish school. Waiting until 3rd grade or 5th grade to deal with the problem is just setting them up for failure. But as others have said, whatever you come up with, you have to have the backbone to stick to it, even when it’s unpleasant to do so.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
12:09 pm

The problem with retention is that, historically, it has been treated as an intervention in and of itself. Retaining a student and having him repeat the same process that didn’t “get it” before is the very definition of insanity. It is also nearly impossible to avoid the shame factor.

The vast majority of teachers do not change their instructional strategies and methods, regardless of which (or how many) kids are in front of them. This is particularly true as grade levels get higher. This is why retention doesn’t work in most cases.

HS Math Teacher

August 24th, 2012
12:41 pm

Getting socially promoted kids from middle school in high school math classes wasn’t a big problem when we had two diploma pathways (college prep & vocational). Now, it is a big problem. All kids are expected to take what amounts to college prep math. Thinking that the current math program will do all kids well is nothing but a hopeful pipe-dream. It’s fantasy. It isn’t based on reality.

Improve Reading Instruction

August 24th, 2012
12:44 pm

Completely agree that reading readiness and instruction must be drastically improved, from the preK and Kindergarten levels on up. Right now, school districts use a smattering of different types of reading instruction, curricula, and interventions without any good proof that their particular combination of instruction and remediation works. No wonder that 20% of elementary school children have a reading disability, aka dyslexia, even 20% children with high intelligence and good family support. School systems need to use evidence-based multisensory reading programs grounded in neuroscience and proven to work with all children. Dyslexic children will especially benefit, but so will non-dyslexic children who will just learn to read faster and better. Ironically, the old mid-20th Century phonics-based reading instruction was more effective even though it was developed intuitively rather than from a modern understanding of the neuroscience of learning.

Unfortunately, many school system special needs programs are afraid of the term “dyslexia” and think that parents with dyslexic children are just trying to get extra services for free. Often such parents have to resort to expensive private tutoring or exhorbitantly priced schools like The Schenck School or the Atlanta Speech School because school systems are just not teaching their children to read well. The problem isn’t the children’s ability to learn–after all they are 20% of all children, on the normal Bell curve–but a failure to teach properly. If school systems used a sound combination of instruction, curricula, testing, remediation, and evaluation of their program, they would have a lot less retention and lifelong remediation.


August 24th, 2012
12:57 pm

In parallel, don’t colleges and universities already retain students?

If you haven’t passed a prerequisite course, you can’t take the next course in the series. You are retained a semester in order to attempt the same stuff you failed to learn last time.

I bet we would find that students who repeatedly fail classes in college are more likely to drop-out than those students who do not fail.

*sarcasm* We should demand that college students who fail classes be ‘promoted’ to take the next class in the series along with the other students. If we hold them back to retake the material we’ll just increase the odds they drop out! It’s better to make sure everyone has a college diploma than to worry about if they learned the material!

Follow the Course

August 24th, 2012
1:02 pm

@yuzeyurbrane … Money has nothing to do with the various educational situations. More money does not solve discipline issues, desire issues, lack of parental support, etc. … If money was an issue, we would still be living in caves.

Build the stadium … because the donors/stake-holders want it.


August 24th, 2012
1:02 pm

I come from a family of educators (Mom, Grandmamma, sister) and rest assured that “flunking” a grade or whatever is not the worst thing. Remember in the ’60’s the SRA program? Aqua, purple, orange, olive, blue, brown, green, and red were the “colors” of the different reading levels in the second grade. Tan and gold were added a year or two later. A kid who was still in aqua or purple when everyone else was at, or close to, red was in no shape form or fashion ready to advance. The idea of social promotion is not a matter of debate….it is just wrong. Some kids mature more slowly than others, physically and/or mentally. If a kid in the second grade could not get past the first or second color (and yes, even us second graders knew the difference) he or she was not ready to move up.


August 24th, 2012
1:13 pm

@V. Granny: “The public school system cannot do any more with a child the second time around than they did with them the first time, just collect money, it’s all about the money.”

So what if your son’s teacher had said, “this kid will never be able to learn a darn thing.” You would be outraged, no doubt, and rightfully so. This is just another case of public schools being damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

@Henson, “Retaining a student and having him repeat the same process that didn’t “get it” before is the very definition of insanity.” I think your comment “is the very definition of insanity,” and you call yourself an educator. Good grief.


August 24th, 2012
1:35 pm

@redweather……well said!

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
1:41 pm

Dr. Monica Henson said something that’s very important: “The vast majority of teachers do not change their instructional strategies and methods, regardless of which (or how many) kids are in front of them.”

Thta’s my experience in APS. Teachers had a favored method of teaching and they used the same method regardlesss of whether it worked for some children or not.

I vividly remember learning things by doing. I “got it” when I did it. Simple stuff. To learn the metric system we poured water into measuring cups with metric measurements and into other cups with standard oz. measurements. It was an “aha” moment when we could physically experience an oz and a liter.

I would love to throw away all copy machines in the schools. Instruction nowadays focuses on ditto sheets where kids are told to circle the right answers. That’s just lazy teaching.

Teachers need to literally give kids a block with four pieces to learn what 25% and 50% and 75% and 100% is, not drawings on a paper.

I didn’t really grasp botany until college. I well remember looking at the bottom of the fern leaf and FEELING the spores on the back of the leaf. It was real to me. Swabbing my own cheek with a Q tip and putting the cell under a microscope made a cell real to me.

All that cannot be taught by a teacher in APS photocopying a sheet out of a work book, handing it out to the students and telling them to “circle the right answer.”

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
1:46 pm

I found this commet disturbing “Most third grade (or even earlier) teachers can tell you which kids won’t finish.”

Claiming one can predict which kids won’t finish while they are still very young is a tragedy and disservice to the kids. No teacher can predict which kids won’t finish. All those teachers can do is fulfill a self-fulfilling prophecy and fail to teach those kids because they have already been labeled as a failure.

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
1:49 pm

Maureen, ah , OK, I see it was Bragg’s comment instead of yours. Thanks. P and J.

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
1:54 pm

d, I like whre your head is at when you say “I have mentioned it on this blog before, but perhaps a transition program like Gwinnett uses may be the most effective solution. We allow students to retake only the courses that they struggled with while moving on with the curriculum and their classmates in the other courses that they were successful in.”

However, if a child cannot read by the third grade, he or she is not ready for any fourth grade class, not even math.

I think children should be retained much earlier, in kindergarten and in first grade. What public schools in APS do now is not retain the child until repeated attempts at the 3rd grade CRCT provfe the child is in capable.
Truthfully, the school sytem knew much earler that the child was not ready but refused to admit it because they think it makes them look bad when a child is retained.
We need the focus to be on the students instead of the school system’s ego.


August 24th, 2012
2:01 pm

@Pride and Joy;
You are right….if a child cannot read by third grade, OBVIOUSLY (except to some feel-good socialist theory of the day subscriber) he or she does not need to go to the fourth grade! The idea that this is debatable shows you why the school system has become what it is…..

taco taco

August 24th, 2012
2:29 pm

I have to agree with HS Math Teacher. What happened to vocational studies? I know every student should have a shot to make it academically in college, but this one track approach GA is on is not fair to all kids. Relating to math, To graduate, a GA HS student must take 4 years of high school math (Math I-IV) (4th year math class can be flexible with an elective math). Math IV level is standard pre-calculus (will be changing with CCGPS, no clue yet about that). In order to recieve your high school diploma in GA every student must pass pre-calc. Now come on, for some this class is fine, but for many of our students who will not or care not to go to college, we are doing them a disservice. Bring back mechanics and metal shop back into HS. Have the students rebuild an engine, review ratios and proportions with real life examples with vehicle fluids. There are so many ways to engage these kids than this one track math approach required from them now.

Follow the Course

August 24th, 2012
2:45 pm

@taco taco – I agree about the Vo-Tec path. Back in the day these were valuable skills BUT the “professional educators” did/do not see “blue collar” jobs of any value.

Everyone needs to take drafting … just look at the “penmanship’ today

William Casey

August 24th, 2012
2:57 pm

I’m no expert on Early Chilhood Education though I was married to a K-3 teacher for seven years awhile back. Please forgive if my ideas are already being implemented.

“Ability” grouping (tracking) has gotten a bad rap and rightfully so. Kids get labeled early on and essentially doomed. However, “competency grouping” seems an absolute necessity to me. If one child arrives at school already reading and another arrives not knowing the alphabet, lumping them together because they are both six years old is going to shortchange somebody. I suppose that money is an obstacle, but, common sense indicates that some sort of pre-enrollment diagnosis should take place in the month of May prior to enrollment in August and the learning program for each child developed from the diagnosis. Waiting until you “see what you get” and then trying to cobble something together on-the-fly seems terribly inefficient.

* Reading is ALL important. Focus on this. A child who can read has a chance. One who can’t is doomed to failure.

* Retention has some awful consequences down the road and dropping-out is far from the worst. I’ll stick to what I know here. A 17-year old (or 2 or 3) in a 9th grade class with mostly 14-15 year olds is a prescription for disaster.


August 24th, 2012
3:08 pm

The lower the bar, the less you have to jump. Life is a highway.


August 24th, 2012
3:15 pm

Promoting children that can’t read is the main reason we have college graduates that can’t read or write. But they can sure as hell excell in sports.


August 24th, 2012
3:16 pm

Follow the Course

August 24th, 2012
3:23 pm

@ Let children be students, not student teachers

August 24th, 2012
11:24 am
You stated … “Excuse me, but it is not my daughter’s job to educate a slow-learner child. She is nine. It is her job to be a fourth-grader and to learn the skills and facts that fourth graders do.”

That comment has sort of been knawing on me for this attitude hurts the development of your childs own leadership abilities. There is more to education than reading and writing other skills can be developed. Being singularly minded and selfish are two traits were have enough of.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
3:50 pm

Pride and Joy expressed concern about the statement, “Most third grade (or even earlier) teachers can tell you which kids won’t finish.”

There is an urban myth that future prison space needs can be estimated by looking at 3rd grade reading levels in a region. Unfortunately, it’s not that far from the truth.


August 24th, 2012
4:05 pm

@Pride – so if a student has mastered 3rd grade math, he or she should retake 3rd grade math because of reading? I fail to see the logic in that. Let the student progress to 4th grade math and work on the reading in an intensive setting. I have seen students in the transition program make up multiple grade levels in one year (or less) with the appropriate support.


August 24th, 2012
4:10 pm

Follow the Course, pray tell why you say money has nothing to do with education? As to the stadium, who do you consider to be the stakeholders?

believe it or not

August 24th, 2012
5:09 pm

I had a kindergarten student that I wanted to retain. This student did not know most numerals or letters. He only knew about 20 uppercase letter (not the sound they make, the actual letter names). He only recognized the numerals 0-5. I was told by administration that this student could not be retained. Please don’t blame teachers for everything.


August 24th, 2012
6:29 pm

If a child can’t read he or she has no business being promoted, last time I check most homework assignment require some reading, and how are they suppose to take test and exams if they can’t read the question? So we are suppose to be content that little Billy or Suzy can only read books with big pictures in them and just pass them on to the next grade. I have to wonder sometimes when it comes to education what has happen to holding the student accountable and requiring high expectations of all students. Promoting someone who is not ready because he or she might get pick on or humiliated is a cop out, beside retention is the last course of action when all else fells. If they don’t learn to read in elementary school, when would be the proper time for them to learn, when they are in high school….I think not.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

August 24th, 2012
6:45 pm

I have had many students who did not perform at grade level. Some I recommended for retention. Some I did not. There are many factors that can affect a child’s performance. You have to balance the whole child in making a determination whether to retain or not. In some cases, children just need time to mature. Developmentally, they may not be ready to focus or absorb certain concepts. In some cases, children come from other countries and are unable to speak english upon arrival. They need time to learn the language to be successful. They may be lacking in an educational background in some fundamental skills upon which to build. Sometimes they arrive in the middle of the year, and are so far behind, you cannot hope to catch them up in a short time. These are the children who tend to benefit most from retention. On the other hand, if low performance is more a case of a learning disability, processing issue, lack of ability, or lack of effort, retention is likely NOT the best intervention for that child. Other methods would likely prove more effective. Furthermore, some children are mature beyond their years, and can become a catalyst for trouble if retained in a classroom with developmentally younger children.

I also believe that the idea of retaining children at third grade due to the CRCT has done our children a great disservice. Struggling students (especially in reading) do best if they are retained in K-2. There is a “window of opportunity” in reading instruction which is very narrow, and once that window closes (at around age 8) helping a child learn to read become much more difficult. Third grade teachers expect students to “read to learn.” They do not structure their classrooms around “learning to read.” They do not spend time on the basic phonemic work and decoding practice that emergent readers need to master reading. Thus, non-readers in 3rd grade and up are at a great disadvantage. As a third grade teacher, I have curriculum to teach. I do not have time to teach little Jimmy how to read. I can work with him as often as possible, but not nearly as much as a teacher in k-2 works on the basics of reading. Unfortunately, with the focus on third grade being a benchmark grade for CRCT, what happens is that struggling students are sent on with the “understanding” that they will fail the CRCT in third and then be held back – even though earlier retention would have benefited the child more. However, since failing the CRCT means retention is mandatory, administrators would prefer to wait till third to retain, because then they do not have to prepare paperwork and convince a parent to retain in k-2.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

August 24th, 2012
6:46 pm

Um.. That smiley was supposed to be a number eight. 8

Hillbilly D

August 24th, 2012
6:58 pm

I love teaching

It does that if you don’t leave a couple spaces between the 8 and the ) .

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

August 24th, 2012
7:00 pm


Live and learn, I guess 8)

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
7:19 pm

Ashley said “If they don’t learn to read in elementary school, when would be the proper time for them to learn, when they are in high school….I think not.”

I agree,with you, Ashley but it’s not the kids’ fault. Schools promote kids when they know they are not ready to be promoted. It’s not little Billy or Suzy’s fault they can’t read. You mentioned holding students accountable…Ashley, third graders are only eight years old. They can’t possibly be held accountable. If they can’t read, the adults in their lives (parents, teachers, administrators) are at fault. Those adults should be held accountable. Eight year old children cannot be held accountable for anything important. Accountability is an adult concept.
Little children are RESPONSIBLE for small chores such as putting away their shoes when they come inside the houes, they are RESPONSIBLE for putting their dirty clothes in the hamper after they remove them.
ACCOUNTABILITY is always an adults purvue, Ashley, and judging by your very poor grammar, you need to be ACCOUNTABLE for speaking correctly and writing correctly so that your children can learn the right way.
“Last time I check (sic)” — should be “checked”
“Most homework assignment (sic)” should be “assignments.
“how are they supposed (sic)” should be “how are they supposed”
“to take test (sic)” should be “to take a test” or “to take tests”
“so we are suppose (sic)..” should be “we are supposed…”
“what has happen (sic)” should be “what has happened”
“she might get pick (sic) on” should be “she might get picked on”
“beside (sic)” should be “besides”
“fells” should be “fails”
You also really need to understand the difference between “responsible” and “accountable.”

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
7:28 pm

To I Love Teaching — I agree with everything you just said. Schools wait too late to retain. Their interests are not the interests of the child. I know parents who begged the school to retain their child and the school refused…and just as you said, they weren’t ready for fourth grade.
So sad.
It seems administrators don’t want what’s best for the kids. They only want what they think makes them look better.
Thanks for your insights. I find them helpful.
P and J

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
7:32 pm

My concern, Dr. Monica, is that teachers think they can predict a child’s future and write them off. What I mean is, we have teachers today who think a child is a lost cause and give up on teaching the child and not care about them.
That ought to be a crime.
The world has plenty of successful people who lived through a teacher or other adult telling them they’d never amount to anything.
That does more harm than good, wouldn’t you say?
I would never give up on a kid.

Pride and Joy

August 24th, 2012
7:34 pm

d asks “@Pride – so if a student has mastered 3rd grade math, he or she should retake 3rd grade math because of reading?
Yes, of course.
Reading is fundamental, even in math.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a word problem.
One also has to read the sentence to solve the problem.
The little ditt sheets have instruction. If you cannot read them, you can’t follow them.
Reading is fundamental to all other learning.