Brookings research paper: Retaining students in early grades

20 Aug

Moi discussed retaining students in Is holding kids back a grade the answer to some learning problems?

The goal of parents, teachers, students, and society should be that all children succeed in obtaining a good basic education. In order to achieve this goal, children must come to school ready to learn. See, Illiteracy in America https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/illiteracy-in-america/

Sarah Garland of the Hechinger Report writes in the article, Repeating Grades: More States Requiring Students To Be Held Back, Is It The Right Thing To Do? This article was also posted at Huffington Post:

The report, which examined a decade-old retention policy in Florida, was authored by Martin West of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He argues that “the decision to retain a student is typically made based on subtle considerations involving ability, maturity, and parental involvement that researchers are unable to incorporate into their analyses. As a result, the disappointing outcomes of retained students may well reflect the reasons they were held back in the first place rather than the consequences of being retained.”

West comes to the following conclusion:

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.”

The spread of stricter retention policies is connected to a wider movement to ensure all children are reading proficiently by third grade. The idea is based on research showing that children who don’t reach that target are often left behind as their classes move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

Retention is not the only, or even the main, instrument in the toolbox promoted by advocates in the reading-by-third-grade movement. Intensive interventions, including pulling struggling readers out of class for individual or small-group tutorials, have become increasingly popular in many schools around the country. More states are also enshrining efforts to identify struggling readers and provide them early interventions in the law, as Education Week has reported.

Even so, the use of retention, even as a last resort for students who aren’t reading well enough on time, is still fraught with problems, many experts say. A report on third-grade literacy policies by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), published in March 2012, outlined what can go wrong with strict retention policies….

Here is a portion of the official release from Brookings:

Policy Implications

Reducing the number of students who do not acquire basic reading skills in the early grades remains an urgent priority for American public education. According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, one third of all fourth grade students, and fully half of black and Hispanic fourth graders, fail to demonstrate even a basic level of reading proficiency. Improving on this record will require that states provide students at risk of reading difficulty with access to high-quality early childhood education programs, help districts develop early identification systems so that struggling readers can be targeted for intervention, and take steps to improve the quality of instruction in grades K-2. Although often overlooked, this latter issue is critical given evidence that schools often assign less experienced and less effective teachers to those grades, which are typically excluded from state accountability systems.

Policies encouraging the retention of students who have not acquired basic reading skills by third grade are no substitute for the development of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the number of struggling readers. Yet the best available evidence indicates that policies that include appropriate interventions for retained students may well be a useful component of a comprehensive strategy. There is nothing in the research literature proving that such a practice would be harmful to the students who are directly affected, and some evidence to suggest that those students may benefit. Test-based promotion policies may also create new incentives for educators and parents to improve student reading skills prior to third grade. Interestingly, after the initial spike to 21,799 (13.5 percent) retentions, the number of Florida students retained in third grade fell steadily in the six years following the introduction of its test-based promotion policy, reaching 9,562 (5.6 percent) in 2008. This decline was due primarily to a reduction in the number of students failing to meet the promotion standard.

Test-based promotion policies are most likely to be successful if they are accompanied by specific requirements that retained students be provided with additional, research-based instruction in reading and adequate funding to implement those requirements. The apparently positive effects of the Florida reform reflect the combined effect of retention and the remedial services made available to retained students, and common sense suggests that retention should not imply an exact repetition of what came before. Policymakers must also take care to provide local educators with sufficient discretion to make decisions they believe are in the best interest of the child without compromising the goal of increased accountability and access to focused support. Finally, continued research is needed to document the effects of test-based promotion policies on the long-run outcomes of retained students and on the quality of instruction available to all students in the critical early grades. Evidence on these issues is essential in order to determine how the benefits of test-based promotion policies compare to their costs.             http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2012/08/16-student-retention-west

Citation:

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  • Martin R. West Assistant Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education

See, Repeating Grades: More States Requiring Students To Be Held Back, Is It The Right Thing To Do? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/repeating-grades-more-sta_n_1811789.html

Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved. Parents are an important part because they enforce lessons learned at school by reading to their children and taking their children for regular library time. Children who do not arrive at school ready to learn will not only face learning challenges, but in some states may face the prospect of being held back in the third grade.

Stephanie Banchero is reporting in the Wall Street Journal article, Bills Prod Schools to Hold Back Third-Graders:

Lawmakers in at least four states are considering legislation that would make students repeat third grade if they can’t pass state reading exams, reviving debates about whether retaining students boosts achievement or increases their odds of dropping out…

The goal is not to retain students, but to get parents, teachers and students all working collaboratively to address the literacy problems when they first show up,” said Colorado state Sen. Mike Johnston, a Democrat who is a sponsor of the bill. Iowa, New Mexico and Tennessee also are considering bills on the issue.

All the bills, as well as similar ones that passed recently in Oklahoma, Arizona and Indiana, aim to address literacy deficiencies that exist nationwide. Only one-third of U.S. schoolchildren had proficient scores on the most recent national reading exam, and scores have barely budged in two decades. That comes as children have made steady gains in math…..http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052970203920204577197341228039310-lMyQjAxMTAyMDEwNDExNDQyWj.html?mod=wsj_share_email

There is no guarantee that holding students back in the third grade is the answer.

Emily Richmond writes in the Atlantic article, Third Grade Again: The Trouble With Holding Students Back:

But, as the Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Banchero points out, the findings on whether retention is good for students is more of a mixed bag. Florida implemented a third-grade retention initiative in 2002, and saw its fourth-grade reading scores soar. But reading scores for the state’s eighth grader have flatlined….

Research has shown that minority students attending inner-city campuses are more likely to be held back a grade than their white peers at more affluent neighborhood schools. Boys are also more likely to be retained than girls.

Berliner believes that for the overwhelming majority of students who are held back, it was the wrong decision.
“There are stories where it was clearly the right thing, and the student moves up to the next grade more confident — I don’t want to negate that,” Berliner said. “But it’s the wrong move for the vast majority of students. And since we don’t know in advance which kids won’t benefit, it’s simply the wrong

There’s plenty of evidence that the nation’s students are struggling with literacy. On the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card,” reading scores had stagnated….

Many younger students miss too many days of class and never develop what Smith called “a culture and habit” of regular attendance. Investments in early childhood education and literacy programs have long-term benefits for society as a whole, Smith said, and not just individual students. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/02/third-grade-again-the-trouble-with-holding-students-back/253065/

One of the mantras of this blog is there should not be a one-size-fits- all approach to education and that there should be a variety of options to achieve the goal of a good basic education for all children. One of the themes that has run through education is the “bandwagon effect” which means that an idea or study result gains traction and that the idea or procedure is replicated and promoted as “the answer.” https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/is-holding-kids-back-a-grade-the-answer-to-some-learning-problems/

Related:

Oregon State University study: Ability to pay attention in preschool may predict college success https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/oregon-state-university-study-ability-to-pay-attention-in-preschool-may-predict-college-success/

Pre-kindergarten programs help at-risk students prepare for school                                                           https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/pre-kindergarten-programs-help-at-risk-students-prepare-for-school/

Study: Early mastery of fractions is a predictor of math success                                                           https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/study-early-mastery-of-fractions-is-a-predictor-of-math-success/

School Absenteeism: Absent from the classroom leads to absence from participation in this societyhttps://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/school-absenteeism-absent-from-the-classroom-leads-to-absence-from-participation-in-this-society/

Study: When teachers overcompensate for prejudice https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/study-when-teachers-overcompensate-for-prejudice/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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