Monday, September 12, 2011

Rethinking retention

Charlotte-Mecklenburg's new preK-8 schools are less than three weeks old,  but Ashley Park Principal Tonya Kales reports one unexpected lesson:  She's rethinking the value of making children repeat a grade.

A longtime elementary school teacher and administrator,  Kales says she's been among those who think it can help to hold back a kindergartener who's struggling with basic skills or a third-grader who's far behind in reading and math.

Then her middle-schoolers reported,  and she realized some will celebrate their 16th birthdays in eighth grade.  They're physically and socially out of step with their younger classmates,  and they're frustrated at not being in high school.  Most,  Kales says,  were held back in early grades,  when it seemed like no big deal.  Now their parents and teachers are trying desperately to keep them from giving up on school.

Kales is getting a first-hand look at what the N.C. School Psychology Association has been saying for years:  "It turns out that retention is not a 'gift of time,'  as might be intended,  but a year-long sentence to be served,"  says a 2005 NCSPA position statement.

Research done at CMS found that children do perform better when they repeat a grade,  but in subsequent years they fall behind classmates who were weak on skills but were not held back.  By eighth grade,  the held-back students are far more likely to fail exams and get suspended,  the study found.

"Retention is the most powerful predictor of who will drop out,"  the position paper says.  "One retention increases the likelihood by 4 to 5 times;  two retentions increase the likelihood of dropping out to almost 100 percent."

The NCSPA doesn't advocate turning a blind eye and "socially promoting" students without addressing their failures.  Instead,  it urges schools to find ways to keep children with their peers while providing the extra help to catch up.

Update at 6:20 p.m.:  Just stumbled on a clip I'd been looking for this morning.  In 2010,  Superintendent Peter Gorman made it tougher for principals to retain students,  for pretty much the reasons cited above.  "We don't believe a student who is 17 and in their middle-school years is ever going to graduate, "  Gorman said.  "We've got to get them into an alternative high school setting."

CMS has created alternative settings,  such as the Transitional 9 Program at Hawthorne High.  But that doesn't help students who have already been held back;  they can't get into alternative high-school programs until they complete eighth grade.


Anonymous said...

Again, more focus on the bottom-feeders.

Why are our schools so obsessed with those who are so unlikely to succeed in school anyway?

Wiley Coyote said...

anon 12:42...

This has been going on for decades and will continue....

It is not the responsibility of school systems to get into the business of student's homes. It is their business to ensure they have the best teachers and infrastructure in place and programs to help those who need remedial help.

If by then students don't get it, that's just too bad.

Until parents and students today who are still in school understand that education for themselves and their children or even teenagers who may be parents or parents in a few shorts years, that education is paramount to their future, nothing will change.

The question begs to be asked, how did they get to that point? How can you be 16 in the 8th grade?

How can we have students in high school reading on an elementary level?

Anonymous said...

The reality is that any student who isn't passing the reading EOG with a solid 3 in the eighth grade is going to find passing the English 9 EOC exam very difficult, if not impossible. The greatest predictor for dropping out of high school is failing Freshman English. As the previous poster said, we spend an overwhelming proportion of our time, energy and money on these kids and I think it is a waste. I say cut them loose. A good percentage of them will quickly realize they need an education and will turn up in adult education, some just lack the native ability to learn and the rest aren't worth bothering about.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, let's keep passing those kids who can't read so they won't be embarrassed by being the biggest kid in eighth grade.

Then when their high school classmates have to read their tests to them (as I had to do my Freshman year in HS) they will feel like they really fit in.

Anonymous said...

Being an American is no longer a guarantee of living a decent lifestyle.

In the future, our children will have a choice of living in either the First World or the Third World economies of this country.

Of course, we've been saying that since the 1980's, but now it's a reality.

Our special place in the world earned by winning WWII is eroding and we can no longer afford a welfare state to prop up our lowest achievers.

That reality by itself should be drilled into kids heads (and parents as well) until they cut the nonsense and behave and perform well in school instead of dragging everyone else down.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that no of you have a child that has a learning difference then maybe you would actually understand the deterament that retention can cause. We are not talking about children who are not smart. These are children are usually very bright but have a hard time learning through phonics programs. My husband and I have spent 1000.00's of dollars outside of school for tutoring because we do not believe in retention. Our child is finally doing better because he is being taught appropriately for him. All kids are different and learn differently. Let's stop pushing so much and let them develop.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:19. I am not sure the retentions they are talking about are for children with developmental disabilities, learning disabilities or children with and IEP or 504 plan. I believe this is talking about children of normal intelligence who are not grasping the skills necessary to move forward. The idea behind social promotions was to not "stigmatize" a child or wound their self esteem.

The core issue here in not retention, the issue it what do you do with them once they have been retained. First you have to figure out why they have been retained. Are they learning disabled? Are there environmental factors? Why is the child not being successful? What typically happens it that we reload them in the same class setting hoping that they will get it the second time around? Once a child has had a retention, the districts across the country don't know what to do with them after that.

So we move them along, tell them they are sweet children and move them to the next grade where they are now even further behind. So what is worse, sending a kid along who can't read, write or do basic math but thinks he can...or holding them back and appropriately get them up to the level where they can be successful? My vote is to create environments where we can mitigate it. Test the kids until they master the objections. We have gotten too lost in the grade level rather than do they know the work.

In the high school setting is where we see the outcomes. These woefully prepared children arrive with very little skills yet we expect them to perform on a 9th grade level. I hate the logic found in this NC Psychological Association position paper. Holding them back twice will guarantee that they will drop out. So we move them along and they drop out anyway.

Task mastery teaching seems to be a more human approach in my opinion. To move them along avoids the real issue (a lack of appropriate remediation) and is a set up for these children in the future.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anonymous said...
I am so glad that no of you have a child that has a learning difference then maybe you would actually understand the deterament that retention can cause.'s the issue as I see it.

Any child that has a legitimate learning disability due to a physiological condition like dyslexia, autism, sight, hearing, etc, should be helped as much as possible. I don't think anyone would argue that fact.

The U.S. Dept. Education, 2005a regulations implementing IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) states:

" the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities including children in public or private institutions or care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."

Having said that, there are too many progressive educrats and "education activists" who try and broaden the definition by using the term "at-risk".

As I always ask them to define "at-risk", I'm curious as to what your definition of "learning difference" is.

Larry said...

If a child has a disability you will get an 8000 tax credit for Private School.

Be sure to check and get this special consideration, plus most people are unaware of the financial aid at Private Schools.

We have about 300 Children through the WalMart Foundation going to Private Schools in Charlotte today.

So it can be done, you just have to look.

Anonymous said...

The problem today is that those who benefit from the educational bureaucracy are inventing disabilities (like "conduct disorder") for just about every kid who wants to act like a fool in the classroom.

That has to stop.

Anonymous said...

You are exactly right about putting them back in the same situation again and not having any success. Luckily, as parents we educated ourselves and figured out what was needed and knew that our child did not need to repeat a grade to succeed. I lot of parents just listen to what they are told and do not do more research.

The country with the highest literacy rate does not start to teach reading until children are 8 yrs old. So why are we pushing so hard??

Anonymous said...

Liberalism is well on the way to destroying this country.

In life, under obama, if you can't make it he will take from those who can, to give to you.

School is no different these days.

Why bother doing anything, if govco is just going to do it for you?

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 5:24...

That's one reason why Clinton and the Republicans passed The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Ending welfare as an entitlement program;

Requiring recipients to begin working after two years of receiving benefits;

Placing a lifetime limit of five years on benefits paid by federal funds;

Aiming to encourage two-parent families and discouraging out-of-wedlock births.
Enhancing enforcement of child support.

You're absolutely correct. School hasn't changed. The first President hasn't changed. The answer to two plus two hasn't changed, no matter what year it is or what school a child attends.

Yet we spend trillions on education with the same lackluster results being run by the same, lame, supposedly smart, enlightened educrats year after year.

All they do is blame it on lack of funds.

Anonymous said...

I was retained 4 times in the 7th Grade. Was 16 when I reached grade 8. After my parents died I gave up. That and the fact that school was too easy, and I was bored. I dropped out at 16. Finished my HEE and enrolled in and graduated a 4yr degree with microbiology as a major. The rest is as they say, history. It's all about will, determination and a sense of self pride. Mostly it comes from values instilled while my parents were alive. Anyone can do it! You must first rise off that lazy a** parents, put down the remote. If you don't even know what your kids are talking about, then go back and get your GED. The problem lies with the parents, and it flows like electricity to the kids.

therestofthestory said...

WC, I am not sure what you r pointwas in pointing out the law. It is still used and abused with the usual wink wink nod nod that FRL is abused. I could tell you a techniques that is used but I'd hate to publicize it anymore than it already is.

Sit in some time when one of these "community groups" hold sessions teaching these young girls to fill out welfare applications.

As for the retention question on the floor, clearly this is a case where we need to strenthen our alternative school base. More importantly though is where CMS has failed to put these "family units" into the mental health system to be sure the family gets on board with what it has to do to be sure the student is successful.

I go by 3 sayings. You may lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Second, why feed a student with a firehose when they can only drink from a trickling fountain. And 3, an African proverb, he who is carried on another's back, does not understand how far off the next village is.

I like Benjamin Franklin's take on the whole thing.

"I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. "

Anonymous said...

Old Ben was a very wise man. Wonder what he would think of the state of things today!

Anonymous said...

Wiley Coyote 4:52

I do agree that children should have a legitimate LD but I also feel that we should not assume that all children are going to learn the same way. Phonics did not work. So what do you do in that case? That is why parents have to educate themselves and try to figure out the best options for their indivdual child.

As for private schools, I really do not feel they are any better. The majority of the children that attend the same tutor as my child are from private schools around the area. Plus, you have no rights in private schools. If they do not want to bother with you child many will kick you out.

Anonymous said...

Maybe our new General, um I mean superintendent, will have a good take on retention.

Wiley Coyote said...


I think you're referring to the IDEA.

I posted it to show that all children have rights to an education based on their particular disability.

I also stated that we've allowed terminology to become too ambiguous in describing who is "at-risk".

Let's cut to the chase. Progressives are using "at-risk" to describe every child designated FRL or low income. You know it. I know it and so do they.

The director of Project LIFT said she wanted to end the "dual system of education" defined by zipcodes, yet she is overseeing a project doing exactly the same thing.

My point is, there are already laws to protect the rights of students with disabilities but I'm not convinced 3,200 students in Bright Beginnings fit into the IDEA definition. If they did, the Federal government should be paying for Bright Beginnings and not local taxpayers.

I believe many are in the program due soley related to income, even though income cannot be used as criteria for acceptance into the program.

Ann, do you have a demographic breakdown of the 3,200 Bright Beginnings students and a breakout by percentage of what disabilities these children have?

Anonymous said...

Now that Comcast, in order to facilitate the merger with NBC has agreed to $10 per month internet and $150 computers for the "underserved and poor" starting in Philadelphia, one would think even big media had caved. One issue that gives hope is that the FRL's will have to prove their financial qualifications and competence to acquire services unlike CMS. Maybe true pre-qualifications and a credit rating would help.

The Freeholder said...

One of these days we're going to figure out that the Bell Curve really does exist and that students will do best their if tracked by ability. Top ten percent together, next 20 percent together and so on.

Not everyone is destined to be college material. Some are simply going to be left behind, Congressional mandates notwithstanding. This isn't a good or bad thing, it's simply reality. We need to have appropriate educational resources for them, and jobs available for them when they finish.

Of course, for the last 30 years we've been busy exporting those jobs, so it beats the dickens out of me where those on the back half of the curve are going to work. You only need so many folks asking "Do you want fries with that?"

Wiley Coyote said...


Pareto's Principle... the 80/20 rule.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have charged a West Charlotte High School student with murder in connection with a fatal shooting early Wednesday in west Charlotte.

Police say 17-year-old Roshode Jawade Chapman was charged Wednesday morning with murdering Rashan Malik Bouldin, 23. Investigators say the two men knew each other, and at least two broadcast reports say the shooting happened during an argument after a card game.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spokeswoman confirmed that Chapman was a student at West Charlotte.

Reeltalk said...

I am so glad that no of you have a child that has a learning difference then maybe you would actually understand the deterament that retention can cause. We are not talking about children who are not smart. These are children are usually very bright but have a hard time learning through phonics programs. My husband and I have spent 1000.00's of dollars outside of school for tutoring because we do not believe in retention. Our child is finally doing better because he is being taught appropriately for him. All kids are different and learn differently. Let's stop pushing so much and let them develop.