(SEE UPDATES BELOW) In his Mlive article, Should third-grade students with reading trouble be held back? Take our poll, Brian Smith describes a proposal introduced on October 29, 2013 by Rep. Amanda Price, (R-District 89). The bill is now being considered by the education committee of the Michigan House of Representatives. House Bill 5111, creates a law that would prevent any student from enrolling in 4th grade who has not achieved a score of "proficient" on the 3rd grade Michigan reading assessment. This applies both to students currently enrolled in a public school or public school academy (charter school) as well as students new to that school. No exceptions.
This is an equity and social justice issue. Below, is the comment I posted in response:
Smith--you've cited one study, I hope you will continue your research
into this incredibly important issue. There are hundreds of studies that
have been conducted on retention. Overall, they have found that
retention is not an adequate solution, for example see this article in
ASCD's, Education Leadership (March 2008) that analyzes the research
literature on the subject of retention up to that date:
only do short-term gains quickly disappear, students who have been
retained continue to struggle, have higher special education placements,
are much more likely to drop out, and more than twice as likely to be
minorities. The statistics show that "Black students are more than twice
as likely to be held back as white students, and boys twice as likely
as girls (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006)." The author
concludes that "Although individual studies can be cited to support any
conclusion, overall the preponderance of evidence argues that students
who repeat a grade are no better off, and are sometimes worse off, than
if they had been promoted with their classmates."
Other than for
symbolic, political reasons, why would we do this to children when we
know it doesn't adequately solve the problem? It seems to me that tax
dollars that would be required to educate retained students for an
additional year (that is, if they don't drop out first) would be much
better spent on early interventions in Preschool to 3rd grade, where
research has demonstrated it makes a real difference.
Research on early interventions/preschool:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/us/language-gap-study-bolsters-a-push-for-pre-k.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0 (Hat tip to @Kyle_Mayer1 Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Services, OAISD)
HighScope Perry Preschool longitudinal study
UPDATE 11-23-13: John Hattie's meta-analysis indicates a negative 'effect size' for retention of -0.16. Check out this graphic of 138 effect sizes that impact learning and student achievement, adapted from Hattie's (2009) Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Achievement
Also, check out Hattie's 2012 book, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
UPDATE 12-4-13: Nancy Flanagan's blog post "The Third-Grade Crackdown Club".
UPDATE 1-20-14: Michigan lawmakers and educators continue to work on bill that would flunk 3rd graders via @MichiganRadio http://bit.ly/1e8Dclu
UPDATE 2-21-14: Oakland Schools blog post includes video with Dr. Joan Firestone: Intervention Beats Retention