Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

January 24, 2010

Proposal suggests retaining students

Daniels in favor of holding back third-graders who can’t read at grade-level

As a principal, Heather Hendrich admires the intention behind a proposal by Gov. Mitch Daniels, that any child who is not reading at grade level by the end of third grade should not be promoted.

However, the Western Intermediate School principal said retention is more complicated than that, and should be based on more than if a child can read at grade level.

“We all can agree learning how to read is a foundational skill all our kids must have. To place that rule over all children is a little hard to swallow,” Hendrich said.

Daniels proposed the bill in his State of the State address last week. It would require that children who cannot read at third-grade level by the time they finish third grade would not move on to fourth grade, starting in the 2012-2013 school year. Exceptions would be made for some students, including those with disabilities or those held back for two or more years.

Around the Kokomo area, elementary principals have questioned the effectiveness of the idea, saying research does not show much positive impact from having a child repeat a grade level. Many also said they already have effective intervention in place starting with kindergartners, and that they are already working toward every child reading at grade level.

Ron Owings, Northwestern Elementary principal, said teachers at his school work with local preschool teachers and child care providers to know what kindergarten students are at risk of struggling with school, and provide remediation immediately.

Owings agrees that students who cannot read will struggle with school, but “the overall message from research on retention is, it simply doesn’t work for most students, regardless of the grade level.”

He said students are retained at Northwestern Elementary, but only after the child’s teacher presents a strong case, including plans for what he or she will do differently with the child if he is retained.

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