Here are some education headlines to catch your attention:
by Heather Hollingsworth 02/05/13 03:34 PM ET EST
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Flunked, retained, held back
Whatever you call it, increasing numbers of states are not promoting students who are struggling to read at the end of third grade.
Thirty-two states have passed legislation designed to improve third-grade literacy, according to the Education Commission of the States. Retention is part of the policies in 14 states, with some offering more leeway than others.
“Passing children up the grade ladder when we know they can’t read is irresponsible—and cruel,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in announcing in his recent State of the State address that third-graders should demonstrate an ability to read before being promoted. He also proposed a $12 million program for improving third-graders’ reading skills.
Governor Brownback is right. Passing children up a ladder when we know they can’t read is certainly irresponsible—and cruel. But once these children are flunked and retained in the third grade, sentenced to failure grade after grade with a second retention almost certainly guaranteeing they will drop out of school—well, such a consequence should be considered professional malpractice by state legislatures and state and local boards of education. It’s also bad economics.
Instead, here’s what we must do:
- Place the responsibility for children’s being unable to read in the third grade on inadequately funded education budgets at the preschool and early childhood level. That includes funding for parent education and adult literacy.
- Dramatically increase funding for Title I programs—don’t cut it! Wrap-around services for schools in low-income communities are desperately needed for after-school and summer school programs.
- Assign children to attend summer school when they don’t make the grade, as was done decades ago. Doing so could have a meaningful impact on parents and students by assuring proper supplemental support both during the regular school year and in required summer courses.
- Monitor the emphasis on using test numbers alone to judge reading proficiency. These numbers are typically based on proficiency with splinter fluency skills and isolated skills of grammar, spelling, and language arts. But we also need to pay attention to a child’s comprehension, understanding, and delight in the remarkable richness of available children’s literature (both fiction and nonfiction). We face a serious unintended consequence when we use test scores as the only measure of whether a child passes or fails a grade, and when those scores influence a school’s performance score as measured by state and federal authorities. That consequence: Children may be retained as a way of elevating test scores.
Yes, our society as a whole is flunking in its support of public schools, teachers, and the children we educate. Our funding priorities will not make us globally competitive until we actually allocate significantly more money for the education of our students, who ultimately will represent our interests in the world at the local, state, national, and international levels.
Ask Chip a question or share your own thoughts!
—If you’re reading this entry on the blog site,
click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments” below the entry
—If you’re reading this entry from your email,
click “Yardsticks” to go to the blog site.
Then click “Post a Comment” or the word “Comments”
below the entry.