"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Retention Still Harms Students, Just As It Always Has

The gross immorality of student retention based on standardized test scores continues to spread, even though the vast compendium of research consistently points to the harm caused by such practices.  Here is the latest in a long line of research that points to what the test and punish crowd has known and ignored for years.  ht to Monty Neill for this link:

Five years after a state law required school districts to make third-graders who fail the reading FCAT repeat the year, questions remain about whether the strict rule that has affected tens of thousands of students is effective.

Soon after the law was enacted, the state trumpeted stories of parents initially upset by the retention who later were pleased. But a recent Miami-Dade study that followed the first group of retained students concluded that retention only improves student achievement initially.

''It appears now that the gains have essentially disappeared,'' the study states.

A similar Broward study that tracked the first group of retained students -- who just finished seventh grade -- also found that as they have grown up, their attendance rate in school has dropped and their suspension rate has risen.

State data show that for students who have repeated third grade -- despite the extra year in elementary school -- nearly half fail the reading test as fourth-graders.

Arizona State University Professor Mary Lee Smith studied Florida's law the year after it was enacted and has continued monitoring its effects. In 2004, her policy brief recommended the law be repealed.

Four years later, Smith's objections are the same.

'The research stretching over a 60-plus-year period has consistently demonstrated the same thing: that retention in grade does not improve performance in subsequent years' achievement and bears a strong relationship to dropping out of school later,'' Smith wrote in an e-mail to The Miami Herald. ``No other body or research is so strongly one-sided, yet policy makers and politicians point to it as a way to improve performance.''

She said many other strategies, including small class sizes, high quality preschools, good teachers, remediation on academic skills before and after school and tutoring are better than retention as long as they are not teaching to the test.

Policies like Florida's dot the country. In New York City, for the last four years, third-graders who score in the lowest of four levels on English and math tests have been required to repeat the grade unless they score higher after summer school or if teachers appeal. . . .

1 comment:

  1. Retention also causes problems later on. I've had several students who were retained in the lower grades (3rd/4th) who are then "pushed" from one grade to the next. For example, a student of mine was retained in 5th and then arrived at our middle school only to be "pushed" from 6th to 7th in October because "he was too old". Not only did the retention not help him learn the 5th grade material but it also effectively robbed him of a 6th grade year. The system completely failed that child, and he struggled to understand what was going on for the next two years.