Bexley commits to helping struggling learners
Common sense would support the idea that retaining students early, by third grade, would yield and sustain short and long-term benefits for the student.
Yet, as happens so many times in science, the evidence found in research is in direct conflict with intuition, gut feelings and common sense. Unfortunately, a "Common Sense" agenda is driving educational reform in Ohio and throughout the United States.
Ohio legislators passed Senate Bill 316 to support a concept referred to as the Ohio Third Grade Guarantee that mandates retention of a third-grader performing below a predetermined "proficient level" on a single test implemented in the spring of the child's third-grade year. English as a Second Language students and special education students will be exempt from this law.
In my preparation to support the implementation of the law, I looked for research to identify retention programs and practices that have been developed to benefit children and their learning. I was hoping to discover many best practices in this area of "educational reform" and begin to replicate them in Bexley as rapidly as possible, given the aggressive timeline implementation requirements defined in SB 316.
I wasn't surprised to find out that no research exists to support this practice.
In fact, virtually all of the research paints a very dismal picture for the future of children retained at any time in their school careers.
Retention studies indicate that these children will very likely to drop out of school early. If they do graduate, they will be less likely to enroll in post-secondary education programs; and they will experience poorer employment outcomes and opportunities. The research also points out that minority children, children in poverty, children with peer relations difficulties and children experiencing frequent school changes were more likely to be retained.
The last thing a child performing below a proficient level in reading needs in his or her life is one more hurdle to overcome, a hurdle that will add to that child's deficits, not contribute to his or her assets.
In fact, retention will be the final nail for any struggling learner.
Bexley has a long and successful history in implementing early intervention programs to assist students as they develop their skills in reading. The system of interventions in Bexley is supported by an Intervention Assistance Team (IAT) at each school. This team is led by a school administrator and staffed by highly trained professionals selected from the building's faculty and staff.
A systemic process identifies as early as possible students needing additional support and intervention. Faculty and staff members are involved in continuous progress monitoring and formative evaluation using adopted assessment practices.
They are able to use this information to modify instructional efforts and practices. These programs include intensive direct instruction strategies; tutoring and instruction before and after school; summer school classes offered tuition free; tutoring and mentoring programs with student peers; and programs that provide consistency between regular, remedial and special education.
Our school district will double its efforts to identify and support its struggling learners to ensure that they will not face retention beginning with the 2013-2014 third-grade class. In the meantime, aggressive steps need to be taken to retain that portion of SB 315 which advocates for the identification of struggling students and providing them with tiered, intensive intervention while strongly advocating for the repeal of references to "retention" in the law.