We're still living in the NCLB Era...and will be until the test-and-punish methods of state and federal legislators are left behind.
Until then, punishment is the norm.
Public schools and public school systems can be punished by funding cuts, school closings, and turnarounds. Teachers can be punished by salary freezes, reduced job protections, and evaluations based on test scores. Students are punished by all of the above...plus retention in grade.
Few topics in education have been as well researched as retention in grade. The research is consistent, yet retention has been the go-to intervention when public education fails a child. It's so entrenched in our public education psyche that when state legislators want to "guarantee success by third grade," they do it by retaining children as punishment for not learning.
A few weeks ago, Indiana's third graders took the IREAD-3 test. The purpose of the test is defined on the State DOE's web site,
The purpose of the Indiana Reading Evaluation And Determination (IREAD-3) assessment is to measure foundational reading standards through grade three. Based on the Indiana Academic Standards, IREAD-3 is a summative assessment that was developed in accordance with HEA 1367 (also known as PL 109 from 2010) which "requires the evaluation of reading skills for students who are in grade three beginning in the Spring of 2012 to ensure that all students can read proficiently before moving on to grade four."In 2015 more than 13,400 third graders failed to pass IREAD-3. I don't know how many of those 13,400 were retained-in-grade. Those who did not pass the IREAD-3 had the opportunity to retake the test last summer. If they failed a second time, they either had to qualify for a “good cause exemption” (usually ELL and special needs students) or take the test again this March as a third grader. The law says that those who fail don't have to be retained, but they must
...continue to receive Grade 3 reading and literacy instruction...It's up to the local school and district to decide how to handle that.
Perhaps politicians adopted the third grade test and retain policy in order to ensure that all third graders were reading at a proficient level, as they claim. The result, however, is that IREAD-3 is a tool put in place by legislators in order to punish 8 and 9 year old children for not learning to read fast enough or well enough. The reasons they didn't/couldn't learn at the speed required by the state might be varied. Perhaps...
- their school didn't or wasn't able to provide early intervention because of budget cuts
- they lived with family and community problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, violence, or absentee parents, and the mental health and emotional problems that result from such conditions
- they didn't have enough food
- they didn't receive adequate medical, mental health, or dental care,
- they didn't have a stable shelter or were homeless
- they lived in an area with environmental toxins, like lead
The burden is on third grade children.
Learn or be punished!
[For more information on retention in grade see Research on Retention in Grade]