Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Retention Gone Wrong

During tonight's PTO meeting our district's Director of Elementary Education, Cameron Rains (@CameronRains), came to speak to parents about the upcoming IREAD-3 assessment. He did a great job, as usual, speaking with parents about the assessment and fielding questions. He is a voice of calm and reason in times of uncertainty.

Here is a quote about the IREAD-3 assessment from the Indiana Department of Education taken from the parent communication letter:

"Public Law 109 requires the evaluation of reading skills for students who are in third grade beginning in the spring of 2012. This legislation was created to ensure that all students can read proficiently at the end of grade three. In response to Public Law 109, educators from across the state worked with the Indiana Department of Education to develop a test blueprint and to review test questions that have now become the Indiana Reading Evaluation And Determination (IREAD-3) Assessment.

The intent of Public Law 109 is to ensure every student has the opportunity for future success through literacy. The results will have a positive effect on our entire state as the need for remedial education in middle and high school is reduced and dropout rates and juvenile delinquency are lowered. In addition, Public Law 109 will help Indiana develop the highly skilled workforce needed for a strong economy." http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/assessment/iread-3-parent-guidance-fall-2011-v2.pdf

There's not one educator who could possibly argue against the spirit behind Public Law 109. However, I can't think of many who agree with the punitive nature that comes with the law. Students will take one test, given on one day that will determine if they are proficient readers. If they don't pass they have one more opportunity during the summer to prove themselves. That's it. They have two chances to pass a reading test which will determine if they are promoted or retained for the next school year.

What does it mean for students who don't pass the IREAD-3? They will be retained and take third grade again. Read that one more time. They will be RETAINED and take third grade again. There are three 'good cause exemptions' allowing students to not be retained: A) the student's case conference committee can determine the student should not be retained B) the student is an ELL student C) the student has been retained twice before third grade.

Of course, the Indiana Department of Education has said that students can receive instruction in fourth grade curriculum for all other subjects except in reading. They are coded as a third grader, must receive third grade reading instruction, and they will again take the third grade ISTEP+ test in the spring. They will forever be a grade level behind because of a one day test of reading proficiency.

Is automatic retention really the right course of action for these students? Will retention actually "... have a positive effect on our entire state as the need for remedial education in middle and high school is reduced and dropout rates and juvenile delinquency are lowered..."?

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