Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

FLORIDA’S THIRD GRADE READING LAW IS JUST LIKE THE OTHERS

Florida has a third-grade retention law, just like Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, fifteen other states and the District of Columbia. Learning to read by third grade is so important, according to The National Council of State Legislators, that some states find it necessary to retain children who can’t read.

Learning to read by third grade is important because

Research has demonstrated that students not reading proficiently at the end of third grade are four times more likely to not finish high school. Further, the levels of reading proficiency for third graders are linked to specific long-term outcomes: 23 percent of below-basic readers fail to finish high school, compared to 9 percent of basic-scoring readers and 4 percent of proficient readers.

…not to mention the fact that…

Researchers have pointed out that unintended consequences of retention can include increased costs for school districts (national average of $10,700 per retained student).

So it’s an economic issue, too. [I would agree with that, although the problem is the economic status of the children.] And it’s almost as an afterthought that NCSL mentions that retention-in-grade can have detrimental academic results, as well.

Additionally, retention can negatively impact students’ long-term achievement (i.e. high school graduation rates).

The source for the statement that retention can have a negative impact on graduation rates is titled, New research suggests repeating elementary school grades — even kindergarten — is harmful. The authors of this 2014 article claim that the research on retention-in-grade is “muddied” and the research they report on makes it even “muddier.”

Is that true? Is the research “muddied?”

Not much.

RETENTION HAS QUESTIONABLE VALUE

Research going back decades is consistent that the long term impact of retention-in-grade is negative.

The National Council of State Legislatures has a concern about third graders going on to fourth grade without sufficient reading skills and they are ok with the assumption that retention-in-grade will help kids “catch up.” That assumption isn’t supported by research.

Third-grade Reading Legislation

To encourage local schools and districts to take this milestone seriously, several states have enacted legislation that requires students not reading proficiently by the end of third grade to be retained.

Note that third-grade retention states punish 8 and 9-year-olds as an incentive to get them to read better. Furthermore, the implication is that punishing children will “encourage” schools and districts to take the third-grade reading challenge seriously.

Why?

  • …because schools and districts don’t really worry when third graders can’t read unless they’re given some incentive?
  • Are teachers and schools somehow “holding back” their best effort to teach children to read until the state steps in and “encourages” them to teach better by threatening to punish their students with retention?
  • Are the children not learning to read because they aren’t given the incentive of “not flunking?” Will the threat of retention spur the students to learn more?

The answers to those questions and assumptions are the same. NO!

Teachers are doing their best to help children. Retention does not motivate children. Reading is a complicated process that can’t be improved by “incentives” or threats.

Do you want children to read better? Institute early interventions for children who are having difficulties in kindergarten and first grade. Establish high-quality pre-schools for all children. Pay for these improvements by eliminating the third-grade standardized reading tests used for placement decision. Retention-in-grade is a waste of time, money, and causes real emotional damage.

FLORIDA’S THIRD-GRADE PUNISHMENT LAW DOESN’T WORK EITHER

The Florida third-grade punishment law has yielded another study showing that holding kids back in third grade is not only not helpful, but downright damaging.

The Effects of Mandated 3rd Grade Retention: An Analysis of Florida’s A+ Plan

  • 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. 
  • 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

  • The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.

  • Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.
  • Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.
  • There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and nonretained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).

(See the full report HERE.)

JUST STOP IT

Can we just stop flunking kids, and use the money we save from repeating a grade and foolish third-grade retention tests to give them the support they need in the years leading up to third grade?

For more of my rants against retention-in-grade, including lots of references, click HERE.

👧🏾🎓👦🏻

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