One of the states where the Bush-backed Foundation for Excellence in Education has been involved in legislation is Colorado, where Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a law in May that mandates extra help for struggling young students and bars those considered far behind on reading from advancing to fourth grade without their superintendent’s permission. One year earlier, Oklahoma passed a law that
requires third-grade students to demonstrate proficiency in reading before advancing to fourth grade.
Schools in both states are putting programs in place to help struggling students in advance of the retention piece taking effect in the 2013-2014 school year.
In Indiana, this is the first year third-graders had to pass a state test to move onto fourth-grade-level reading instruction. Initially, 16 percent of third-graders failed the test and had a chance to retake it over the summer. The final statewide results haven’t been released, said Stephanie Sample, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education.
She said some schools are retaining students while others are promoting them to fourth grade and offering them special reading instruction to bring them up to grade level.
“We just want to make sure the kids aren’t passed along before they are ready to succeed,” she said.
The economy could be part of the reason the reform is gaining traction, suggested Reynolds. He said the main cost of retention – another year of education if the student doesn’t drop out – is years away.
“It’s a way to say to the public that we have tough standards in our school,” said Reynolds, who says early childhood programs have better outcomes. “And because states and districts are in a financial crisis in many respects, there is no high priority placed on programs or practices that are going to have a significant cost initially.”
But Bragg, who was tasked with implementing Florida’s policy after its passage, said she knows what she saw happen in her state.
“That hard line in the sand of retention for third-graders moved schools in a way they had not been moved before,” she said. “I don’t understand why it takes the threat of something like that to do what you should be doing all along, but it worked. What I saw was a change in human behavior when a policy is put in place that forced people to do what they are supposed to be doing.”<< previous 1 2 3