Reading between the lines: Florida’s retention program is not worth replicating

Paul Thomas, a Furman University associate professor of education, writes about range of education issues, including the push in South Carolina to follow Florida’s retention policy. This is his second appearance on the Get Schooled blog, but you can read more of his stuff at his “becoming radical” blog.

Thomas sent me this opinion column on the issue of retention. Retention is still one of education’s most hotly debate topics. State policy says Georgia students in grades 3, 5 and 8 should repeat the year when they fail certain standardized tests. But it seldom happens.

The AJC found that districts promote the vast majority of  students even if they fail the retest or blow it off altogether.

Here is an excerpt of the 2008 AJC story:

The AJC obtained state databases — with students’ names removed — that contained spring CRCT scores, summer retest scores and students’ grade level the following fall for 2006 and 2007. In total, the newspaper examined nearly 800,000 students’ test results and promotion status, focusing on those who stayed enrolled in Georgia schools.

Students are supposed to pass math and reading tests in eighth and fifth grades, and reading in third grade, to move up. For those CRCTs, the newspaper found 10 to 20 percent of students failed on their first try in 2006 and 2007. But only a small percentage were ultimately retained: 2.5 percent of eighth-grade testers, 1.7 percent of fifth-graders, and 2.9 percent of third-graders.

Even students who failed a retest were rarely held back. In 2007, for instance, 92 percent of the nearly 9,500 eighth-graders who couldn’t pass the math CRCT were promoted.

Here is the opinion piece by Paul Thomas on South Carolina’s current debate:

South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, has introduced an education bill modeled on a third-grade retention policy widely promoted by Jeb Bush as one aspect of the larger so-called Florida formula. Superintendent Mick Zais has endorsed the bill as well as suggested implementing similar policies at seventh grade.

South Carolina political leadership must not follow Florida’s lead in reading or grade retention policy for several reasons: the Florida formula has been thoroughly discredited as a basis for policy, grade retention has no support in the research that shows retention produces mixed positive outcomes along with many negative consequences for children and taxpayers; and initiatives such as “Just Read, Florida” ignore and replace credible literacy policy desperately needed in high-poverty states such as South Carolina.

First, an essential problem with determining whether or not third graders pass or are retained based on high-stakes test scores is the powerful correlation between test scores and out-of-school factors. Increasing the stakes associated with test scores is guaranteed to impact disproportionately and negatively the most high-needs populations currently struggling in South Carolina schools — high-poverty students, minority students, English language learners and special needs students.

High-stakes test scores in reading are weak evidence of any child’s literacy, and measures such as “on grade level” are equally flawed. Instead of creating a punitive policy, South Carolina needs to move beyond test-based educational practices, especially with our youngest and highest needs students.

Second, South Carolina political leadership and the public must acknowledge that the “Florida Miracle ” — like the “Texas Miracle,” the “Harlem Miracle,” and the “Chicago Miracle” — has been discredited as incomplete data, misrepresented accomplishments, or outright failures masked by political advocacy.

Matthew Di Carlo, a fellow at the Shanker Institute, acknowledges some basic gains in reading made by Florida students, but offers a strong caution:

“That said, the available evidence on these policies, at least those for which some solid evidence exists, might be summarized as mixed but leaning toward modestly positive, with important (albeit common) caveats. A few of the reforms may have generated moderate but meaningful increases in test-based performance (with all the limitations that this implies) among the students and schools they affected. In a couple of other cases, there seems to have been little discernible impact on testing outcomes (and/or there is not yet sufficient basis to draw even highly tentative conclusions). It’s a good bet – or at least wishful thinking – that most of the evidence is still to come….Whether we like it or not, real improvements at aggregate levels are almost always slow and incremental. There are no ‘miracles,’ in Florida or anywhere else. The sooner we realize that, and start choosing and judging policies based on attainable expectations that accept the reality of the long haul, the better.”

Third, while the Florida formula is not a credible basis for any state to create new policy, the most disturbing element of the proposal in South Carolina is that all evidence on grade retention reveals only negative consequences for children (academic and emotional) and taxpayers.

While public sentiment leans toward grade retention based on a popular rejection of social promotion, decades of research show that retention and social promotion are academically ineffective while retention also leads to powerful negative consequences for students. Grade retention has only one clear outcome: increasing the likelihood of a student becoming a drop-out.

In a high-poverty state such as South Carolina, test-based grade retention policies based on reading proficiency will guarantee an increase in the negative outcomes currently being experienced by high-poverty minority students. Following the Florida formula will, then, perpetuate and increase the exact problems education reform should be alleviating.

Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center, has detailed that retention fails students and ultimately taxpayers because retention increases drop-out rates. He cites two scenarios for the student who is retained:

1. She may drop out, meaning she will pay about $60,000 less in taxes over her lifetime, be more likely to commit crimes, and be more likely to depend on government assistance; or

2. She may complete high school, at a cost of an extra year of school – about $10,000. If retention had a substantial payoff, paying for an extra year of school would be worthwhile (although it nationally adds up to billions of dollars each year). But there’s no benefit. With grade retention, we are paying more and getting a worse outcome.

Instead of following the punitive and ineffective Florida formula, South Carolina reading reform should include low-cost but evidence-based policy changes that include increasing students’ access to books in their homes and schools, supporting students reading by choice for extended periods during the school day, and creating holistic and authentic models for assessing reading.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

169 comments Add your comment

James

April 5th, 2013
3:28 am

You may be interested in knowing the the division of school improvement at the GaDOE is cutting half of its staff. The school improvement specialists who are based in the low performing schools will be cut from 65 to 36 staff. When John Barge ran for office he pledged to have more staff in the public schools. This moves almost half those people out and significantly reduces support for alert, focus and priority schools. These are the same people who would have provided support in the schools for CCRPI low performers.

Mitch

April 5th, 2013
5:16 am

Students are people too. They will respond to necessity and opportunity. They will learn what they want to know. We adults have been letting our students down big time. We are sending our factories off shore, spending money we do not have and cannot pay back, our schools and colleges are years out of date and the biggest issues on our State Legislative agenda are guns and gays.. Wow. What a program we offer our young folks.
If you listen closely to our Congressmen and Legislators you will be convinced that they should have been retained in third grade. We need to get our economy back into high gear. That will help students to find their way.

crankee-yankee

April 5th, 2013
5:29 am

There are too many facts for the current crop of legislators to comprehend. They will ignore them. In fact, because of the simplistic approach (that is being discredited) of the retention policy along with its promise of “miraculous” results, I expect a similar push for this type policy here in GA before too long.

bootney farnsworth

April 5th, 2013
6:06 am

I like the idea of hold kids back if they are not ready for the next level. I’m not buying Thomas at all.
seems to me he is trying to hold fast to failed policies and his personal political ideology.

books are everywhere, and can be got for as little as a dollar at the Salvation Army or Goodwill, plus there is this litttle thing I personally love called the public library where you can borrow them FOR FREE.

what the hell is a holistic model for assessing reading?

sorry, not buying any of this. not at all,

bootney farnsworth

April 5th, 2013
6:12 am

funny to see someone-self described radical at that- from one of the most expensive private colleges in the southeast worrying so much about poor people who will never have a realistic shot at taking his classes

reeks of limo liberal

Holly Jones

April 5th, 2013
6:28 am

Promoting a child to the next grade level when he/she is clearly not prepared is as detrimental as retention. You think it doesn’t damage a child’s self-esteem to know that he/she can’t do the work the rest of the class is doing?

Perhaps what is needed (and thus will never happen) is that schools should be reconfigured away from the age-based grade model and into something more like a Montessori-style approach with multi-age classes where children proceed at their own pace and can be remediated or advanced when needed. (And yes, home-schoolers, I know that’s the beauty of what you do, but not everyone can or should. And kids benefit from an objective 3rd party observing their work, IMO).

I really liked his point about incremental gains and us having to recognize that there are no miracles and we have to look much more long term. But education- or better said, education policy makers- aren’t willing to do that. Like so much of our society, they want results yesterday and without doing any real hard work, just try the latest and greatest “miracle pill”.

mountain man

April 5th, 2013
6:41 am

Sounds like the theory is grounded in dollars – if we hold a kid back it will cost us $10,000 extra. If we hold him back two years, it will cost us $20,000. If he drops out, it will cost us $60,000 (assuming he will work at a better job with his fake diploma that we will give him). What about the cost of those students around him that are not getting a better education because the teacher has to “dumb down” the instruction? So those students are not as prepared for college, and they have to pay for remedial courses? You can make lots of arguments, but each one can be negated with the converse.

Basically you are saying it is better to graduate a student with a fake diploma than to REALLY educate him with learning that will help him in his chosen profession. And you wonder why businesses insist on college degrees for McDonald’s night managers.

mountain man

April 5th, 2013
6:43 am

Of course, they would NEVER talk the opposite in terms of money – If we spend $5,000 to send a student to “summer school” then we SAVE ourselves $10,000 from having to repeat a grade (for the student who WANTS to learn and is just behind).

Pride and Joy

April 5th, 2013
6:51 am

Outstanding point:
“What about the cost of those students around him that are not getting a better education because the teacher has to “dumb down” the instruction?”
A high school diploma is rarely worth anything as it is. Many college diplomas aren’t worth anything either.
I’m an employer. I really cannot get used to students getting out of a Masters program with ridiculous errors on their resume and students who cannot speak with any semblance of coherence.
I sincerely want to hire Americans but when they cannot write nor speak common, everyday, language I cannot put them in front of my client, I’d lose the contract.
It is a sad day when I have to hire Indians from India to do a job that should be filled by an American. Indians speak their own native language and speak and write English better than most Americans.
They are also very well educated in the maths and sciences.

Pride and Joy

April 5th, 2013
7:00 am

Holly makes an outstanding point “schools should be reconfigured away from the age-based grade model and into something more like a Montessori-style approach with multi-age classes where children proceed at their own pace and can be remediated or advanced when needed.”
The issue with that is the word we are all uncomfortable talking about is — race.
I’ll try to be very careful here.
When there are not equal numbers of blacks and whites retained, many attribute it to racism.
When there are not equal numbers of blacks and whites in gifted classs, many attribute it to racism.

Cassidy

April 5th, 2013
7:02 am

I used to work at a Business Consultant and we always joked that everyone spoke in “consultese” and this guy is fluent in it. What does ‘holistic’ evaluation even mean? He doesn’t know, but just wants to sit back and point out what doesn’t work…..except he does not even do a very good job at that. For someone who wants such evidenced based plans he did not offer up much evidence. Other than the dollar values of sending them on through and devaluing a high school diploma versus holding them back, he offered no concrete data to back up his assertions.

Take away government assistance as a safety net and ‘SHE’ will be much more motivated to catch up and not drop out if that means no job, no money, no food, no section 8 etc. I work in Public Health now and share a building with DFACS and WIC offices and we can tell you these programs are misused and really only keep people from getting motivated to improve their lives.

Pride and Joy

April 5th, 2013
7:04 am

We need to retain kids EARLY. Have them repeat kindergarten and give kids a ready test at the end of the first grade.
All children should be retained if they cannot read by the end of the first grade and first grade should be all about READING and ARITHMETIC.
No science.
No social studies.
No history.
When one can read, THEN one can learn those other three things.
RIF Reading is fundamental. If one cannot read well, they are unemployable.

Pride and Joy

April 5th, 2013
7:11 am

***New School Rating System is Here***
“…the state will assign a 0-100 “grade” to each school and district. The grade will be based on such elements as graduation rate, performance on standardized tests, student attendance, academic growth and success in closing the performance gap between different groups of students. Schools and districts can earn extra points by offering special programs in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math or by improving the academic performance of poor students, students with limited English skills and students with disabilities.

State officials have not determined what, if any, types of assistance will be offered to schools and districts with low CCRPI grades. The state already has a system in place to assist schools that are designated as “priority,” “focus” or “alert” schools. Those designations are based on graduation rates, student performance and the school’s percentage of low-income students.”
From:
http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/georgia-about-to-roll-out-new-grading-system-for-s/nXDBf/?icmp=ajc_internallink_invitationbox_apr2013_ajcstubtomyajcpremium

Dr. Proud Black Man

April 5th, 2013
7:25 am

FAIL

For the obvious reasons…

Mountain Man

April 5th, 2013
7:49 am

There is NO evidence that grade retention causes a student to drop out that would not drop out anyway – they drop out at sixteen – whether they are in the 10th grade (reading at a 5th grade level) or in the 5th grade.

Mountain Man

April 5th, 2013
7:52 am

“books are everywhere, and can be got for as little as a dollar”

You are correct, bootney – the supply of books is not the problem. A lack of modeling of reading and a lack of caring parents is more the issue. My parents (plural) bought me cheap books by the dozen at yard sales and used book stores and then we traded them in for more.

Mountain Man

April 5th, 2013
7:53 am

“what the hell is a holistic model for assessing reading?”

To see if they can properly skip while reading a book.

Mountain Man

April 5th, 2013
7:55 am

If our businesses want uneducated workers who don’t know how to read, write, and do simple math (like some of our high school graduates) – there are plenty overseas that will work for a LOT less than kids in the US.

Mountain Man

April 5th, 2013
8:01 am

This fellow talks a lot about the negatives of retention – what about all the negatives of social promotion? There are many. Devaluation of high school diplomas (for ALL graduates), extra work for teachers in higher grades, less time for teaching the students who are ON grade level, devaluing work by the other students (HE didn’t do any work last year and HE got promoted, so why should I do MY work).

The ones who do not WANT to learn will drop out no matter what – they are only in school becasue the law says they must – or go to jail.

Dr. John Trotter

April 5th, 2013
8:04 am

Maureen: Like most things that the General Assembly does “for” education, it is really for show. There was never going to be an en masse flunking of Georgia students, no matter what they made on the CRCT. By the way, if I may lift an acronym from my friend, Dr. Glenn Dowell, let me say that CRCT really stands for “Creating Results Cheating on Tests.” Dr. Dowell came up with this aronym a few years ago while working for APS at Trinity Avenue. Maybe that is why he too was unjustifiably, in my opinion, walked out of the building by the goons of the Beverly Hall Administration. I have to give my friend credit for being one of the first to stand up to this bully administration. He was fired, but later sued. Now he drives a Bentley. Ha!

You guys know that I have been saying for years that all of the school “reform” stuff is just a bunch of hooey. Dr. John Goodlad, in his mammoth work on a study of the studies out at UCLA back in the early 1980s (A Place Called School), demonstrated from the overwhelming evidence that school reform cannot be effectuated beyond a local school which has a great leader and great teachers. You cannot mandate school reform system-wide, state-wide, and certainly not nationwide. Well, you can “mandate” it but it’s not going to happen. People will end up making a parody of any so-called “reform,” as we have witnessed in the huge cheating scandals in cities like Atlanta and Houston. I can assure that the same mess is taking place in Chicago, New York City, Newark, and many other large, urban cities where there is so much angst bearing down on the local school “leaders” about closing the achievement gap.

School reform? Like I said, it’s a bunch of hooey. Diane Ravitch wrote a very impressive tome on this subject over a decade ago. She too showed, with thorough research, that all of the so-called “school reform” movements in this country’s history ended up being flops. So now we have South Carolina, the State reportedly too small to be a nation but too large to be an insane asylum, wanting to copy Florida, a state whose kids have been mangled by the ever changing FCAT test. (By the way, many, many of my ancestors hail from Charleston and Georgetown. So, please don’t think that I dislike the Palmetto State. I don’t. I like it immensely…except when Spurrier keeps whipping my Dogs!) All of these state legislators are grasping at straws, trying to find a miracle cure for why Johnny can’t read or compute. “Well, if we reward him by threatening him, then he’ll learn to read and count!”

It’s all about the test scores, the scores that Bill Gates and the Pearson publishing companies and their chums in the Billionaires’ Club have mandated. They think: “IF we can mandate that their kids make certain scores, then we can essentially mandate that they use our materials/apps to study for our tests which our systems will grade. Wow, we like these mandates! We like this school reform. We like it!” Another acronym? Try this one…R-E-F-O-R-M. Ruining Education For Our Resources & Money. Yes, the Pearson companies, Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edyth Broad, the Walton Foundation, and a few other billionaires are ruining public education…masquerading as saints but acting as vandals and marauders of the innocence and joy of learning. © JRAT, April 5, 2013.

A problem for sure

April 5th, 2013
8:08 am

The problem with retention in Georgia in public schools is that we socially promote K-8 and then reality sets in at the high school level in the 9th grade when students who do not pass and earn the appropriate credits are retained in the 9th grade, cannot play sports because they are academically ineligible and eventually after 2-3 years in the 9th grade, they drop out. There must be student accountability and responsibility at the K-8 levels. Students come to high school thinking that they will continue to be socially promoted because we do not want to damage their self-esteem. Something has to change!

Dr. John Trotter

April 5th, 2013
8:08 am

Y’all might miss my morning essays in the future…if the new Filter Monster won’t let them through. Usually the first thing that I do in the morning (unless it’s a hearing or picket day) is to look at the AJC and this blog and while drinking my first cup of coffed compose a quick response to Maureen’s thoughtful article.

Now it’s time for some eggs!

God Bless the Teacher!

April 5th, 2013
8:09 am

Stated on this blog at some point in the past was the idea that some financial incentive should be attached to a student’s success (progress) in school. Say, if a student fails a grade, take away the tax credit that child brings the parent(s). If more than one child fails a grade in the same household, fine the parent the equivalent (or some fraction thereof) of the cost of educating each child an extra year in school. Even if a child fails one class, when added with all other students who fail classes, the cost of personnel needed to reteach the student adds up. After a student fails more than one or two classes, begin charging parents for the class. Garnish parents’ wages to collect the fines. Before all the teacher haters claim that teachers would intentionally fail a student so the school would earn money from said failure, teachers would actually then be able to teach the curriculum as mandated without fear of repurcussions for having higher failure rates.

Enforce this method and it won’t take long for parents to assure little Johnny and Sally are doing what they need to do to pass.

ChristieS

April 5th, 2013
8:12 am

For those who don’t teach at the elementary or primary level (e.g. middle or high school), the holistic model simply means to take into account more than test scores to assess learning. The teacher will use portfolios, documented anecdotal evidence, running records, recordings, ARIs, etc… as well as traditional formative and summative assessments.

Mountain Man

April 5th, 2013
8:13 am

“Say, if a student fails a grade, take away the tax credit that child brings the parent(s). ”

How about marrying this suggestion with the one by Cassidy – if a student fails a grade, the parent(s) lose section 8 housing allowance, food stamps, WIC vouchers, EITC, or some other “removal of welfare” punishment?

Progressive Humanist

April 5th, 2013
8:14 am

I do not agree with Dr. Thomas’ assessment. He says “High-stakes test scores in reading are weak evidence of any child’s literacy, and measures such as “on grade level” are equally flawed.” Actually, high stakes assessments in reading are among the most accurate, valid, reliable, tests known to man. They are carefully constructed, pilot tested, and normed prior to implementation. There are indeed problems with “grade level” indicators, but those are just a tool for the layman to interpret the results. The actual scores are tabulated according to an “extended scale score” which is not associated with the same weaknesses as grade-level scores. Dr. Thomas should know this.

He states that “retention also leads to powerful negative consequences for students”. Again, as with Mr. Kohn in the article a couple days ago, Dr. Thomas seems to be confusing correlation with causation. Is there a correlation between retention and a host of negative outcomes? Absolutely. Did the retention cause the negative outcomes? It’s unlikely. Most of those negative traits (absenteeism, poor academic performance, behavioral problems, etc.) were likely present prior to the retention and thus could not be caused by it. The student who is in danger of being retained is already the most likely student to drop out later in life, whether they are retained or not. Dr. Thomas would have to show data suggesting that students who are slated for retention (and likely to drop out later) are somehow more likely to graduate and avoid negative outcomes if they are socially promoted.

The problem is that we are looking at the highest risk students, seeing the later results (dropping out) and attributing those to retention rather than more likely causes, ignoring the fact that they were already heading in that direction whether they were retained or not because they were already failing academically. It seems to me to be a misattribution of casuality.

justbrowsing

April 5th, 2013
8:15 am

Grade inflation and over emphasis on failure rates ( as well as social promotion) are soft and legal forms of cheating.

God Bless the Teacher!

April 5th, 2013
8:17 am

Mountain Man…”How about marrying this suggestion with the one by Cassidy ” True…my suggestion takes into account those students/families who aren’t receiving such government handouts. Even students from “well off” families fail. Maybe we could fine the parents in Milton and other East Cobb cash havens more for their students’ failures. ;-)

Progressive Humanist

April 5th, 2013
8:18 am

Christie S is correct about the holistic method of reading assessment. There is an actual method to it; it’s not precisely defined, and whether the results are more valid than standardized assessments is open to debate, but it’s a real “thing”.

Mountain Man

April 5th, 2013
8:18 am

“Most of those negative traits (absenteeism, poor academic performance, behavioral problems, etc.) were likely present prior to the retention and thus could not be caused by it. The student who is in danger of being retained is already the most likely student to drop out later in life, whether they are retained or not.”

AMEN, PH!

indigo

April 5th, 2013
8:19 am

More social experimentation.

More politically correct thinking.

More failed ideas.

Some things just never seem to change.

Only in America.

South Georgia Retiree

April 5th, 2013
8:33 am

This is one of those unanswerable questions, debated by educators, parents, and politicians for decades. However, one thing I know is no one should follow FL education laws. Jeb Bush, Rick Scott, and their minions have demeaned public education, cut budgets to the bone, and demonized educators just like GA leaders have done. Right now Scott is gearing up for reelection in 2014 by throwing educators a bone with a proposal for salary increases for the first time in 6 years. The terrible beat goes on, and FL public education will be in shambles as long as the Scott crowd is in power. Just like the Deal crowd in GA.

Beverly Fraud

April 5th, 2013
8:34 am

@Progressive I take issue with the following:

“Is there a correlation between retention and a host of negative outcomes? Absolutely. Did the retention cause the negative outcomes? It’s unlikely.”

Apparently Progressive is unaware of the research that shows retention causes children to be much more likely to be born into homes where a parent is absent, the education level is lower, the family income is lower, and where substance abuse issues are far more prevalent.

Given that retention causes all or most most of these factors, it’s no wonder retention leads to higher dropout rates and it’s disingenuous for Progressive to suggest otherwise.

Don't Tread

April 5th, 2013
8:41 am

And people still argue that “social promotion” doesn’t happen….yeahright :roll:

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

April 5th, 2013
8:47 am

Mountain Man – you missed the magic words! He said “research supports,” though he didn’t cite any. In eduspeak, that trumps all, didn’t you know?

I wonder, Dr Thomas, would you like for all these socially promoted students to be in your program at Furman – Oh wait! they wouldn’t get in there, would they?

I doubt that “all evidence on retention” shows any particular thing. And, of course, I would love to tear apart the research methods looking for uncontrolled variables and hidden costs of promotion…

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

April 5th, 2013
8:48 am

But, again, I may have missed the whole point. I keep thinking that my job as a high school teacher is supposed to be teaching…

Georgia Coach

April 5th, 2013
8:49 am

I have copied some information I shared with my faculty about retention:

Being held back once increases a pupil’s likelihood of quitting school by 30%. Even more staggering is the fact that being held back twice makes dropping out of school a virtual certainty. One study discovered that 20% of retained students did better, 39% had no change, and 40% did worse in school.

I will respond to any queries or attacks on administrators after work today. Have a good day!

Mother of 2

April 5th, 2013
8:51 am

When retention is considered punitive, students can feel disenfranchised, which may lead to a higher dropout rate. Our current education model supports this, which is why many students aren’t retained. However, disenfranchisement will also occur if a student is in a class that they clearly cannot handle.

Back in the day, we had tracking on 3 different levels, as well as pullout special ed classes. The problem with tracking was the fact that it was nearly impossible to change tracks, so students who were immature in elementary school got placed in a low track that no longer served them once they got a bit older. This also led to disenfranchisement.

I agree with a previous poster that a Montessorie method would address the learning needs of all students. This style is child centered, as opposed to teacher centered. Students move onward after mastery of a concept is met. I am surprised that with all of the unique private, magnet, and charter schools in metro Atlanta, there aren’t many Montessorie schools other than preschools.

Paul Thomas

April 5th, 2013
9:01 am

A full examination of the problems with the Florida model with extensive research cited can be seen here: http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/just-say-no-to-just-read-florida-south-carolina/

Digger

April 5th, 2013
9:05 am

Forget it. The minute you start holding kids back, it becomes obvious that certain demographics dominate these scholars. Then race cards are whipped out everywhere, and we are back to high school seniors who cant add 1 + 1. And the spiral continues.

Paul Thomas

April 5th, 2013
9:05 am

Retention, Social Promotion, and Academic Redshirting: What Do We Know and Need to Know?, Nancy Frey, Remedial and Special Education, volume 26, number 6, November/December 2005, pages 332-346

The evidence gathered in the last 30 years on the practice of retention suggests that it is academically ineffective and is potentially detrimental to children’s social and emotional health. The seeds of failure may be sown early for students who are retained, as they are significantly more likely to drop out of high school. Furthermore, the trajectory of adverse outcomes appears to continue into young adulthood, when wages and postsecondary educational opportunities are depressed.

bootney farnsworth

April 5th, 2013
9:13 am

two interesting observations:

-we rarely get this much agreement from people on all sides of the spectrum

-the only advocate so far is a self proclaimed administrator. draw your own conclusions.

bootney farnsworth

April 5th, 2013
9:15 am

@ Paul T,

sorry, not buying it at all. I’ll grant the Fla miracle, just like the Atl miracle, is likely smoke and mirrors.
but to advance a child who is not ready is profoundly STUPID and IRRESPONSIBLE.

you may have the best of intentions, but the best of intentions is what lead up here in the first place

FlaTony

April 5th, 2013
9:16 am

Retention of students in a grade is wrong for many reasons, but any discussion of the notion always seems to deteriorate into emotional arguments.

The real travesty is that the kids who need extra help through after-school tutoring or summer school do not get the help. If our state or any other state truly wanted to make a difference for the kids who are struggling learners, they would open up their pocketbooks and offer real solutions. The truth of the matter is that kids who are behind need more time for learning and that would be easily accomplished by having summer school and tutoring. But, our states have cut the budgets to the bone and would rather use strategies like forced retention in a grade level.

Sad, but true.

Dr. John Trotter

April 5th, 2013
9:17 am

For what’s worth: Phil Gramm spend three years in the Third Grade at Wynton Elementary School in Columbus, Georgia. His father suffered a stroke and was paralyzed when Gramm was very young and died when Gramm was 14. His mother worked double shifts as a nurse.

Gramm went on to graduate high school at Georgia Military Academy (now Woodward) in College Park. He earned a business degree and a doctorate from UGA. He ended up being a university professor of economics at Texas A & M before becoming a U. S. Congressman and U. S. Senator.

The moral of the story? Retention doesn’t have to be a death knell.

Retention is a sensitive area of education and should not be taken lightly. I remember when my sister was so stressed out about a boy in her First Grade class who was not grasping anything. He was a sweet kid. But, he could hardly do a thing academically speaking. My sister was so stressed about this young lad. She tried everything (and my sister was a good teacher; she is retired now). She finally drew the conclusion that he was so far developmentally behind the other children his age that it would be cruel for her to pass him on to the Second Grade. So, she was to have a conference with the child’s mother. My sister very patiently and lovingly laid out the reasons for the mother on why her son needed to be retained for another year in the First Grade. When she exhaled and finished this wrenching disclosure to the mother, she asked, “Now, Ms. Smith, do have any questions at all?” The mother replied: “Yes. When is the Halloween Carnival?” True story.

bootney farnsworth

April 5th, 2013
9:18 am

lets be brutally honest: if a child can’t do C level work at the base level, which is not all that challenging,

they do NOT belong in traditional public education.

hssped

April 5th, 2013
9:18 am

@ Mother of 2
I thinking tracking does work. Kids did make the transition from one track to another if they proved themselves. Well, that was back in my day. I’m not sure when your “back in the day was,” but in mine there were no special ed classes, so I guess I am quite a bit older than you! There was a special school for the moderately retarded and down. The mildly retarded were in lowest level of the track and LD/EBD/OHI did not exist, those kids were placed in that track in which they functioned the best. Looking back, I can guess who would have been LD/EBD/OHI. Kids also flunked, even in elementary, and went to summer school. I know because my sister flunked 3rd grade (and shockingly, she graduated and went on to college). I believe in tracking. It enables the teacher to slow down/speed up. The kids get what they need as opposed to dumbing it down or using the “trickle down” theory of teaching. Neither work. Having taught both resource and collab for 19 years (8 in ms and 11 in hs) I have experimented with various methods. Tracking is the best in my opinion.

Dr. John Trotter

April 5th, 2013
9:18 am

Typo again: “For what [it's] worth:” Sorry.

bootney farnsworth

April 5th, 2013
9:22 am

true story: I was held back at the 4th grade. I wasn’t bothering to do the work.

between the stigma of being left behind, and the extreme displeasure of my parents, I got caught back up by the 7th grade.

challenges reveal character. these kids who should be left back and are promoted anyway will very likely end up roadkill along the highway of life. at some point they’ll find themselves in an environment which will not coddle them.

bootney farnsworth

April 5th, 2013
9:24 am

things I’m curious about:

these poor kids we’re so worried about: where are mom and dad? do they attend parent teacher conferences? PTA? are they in regular contact with the teacher?