Mark Miles of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership blogged about reading reform in Hoosier schools and the importance of curbing social promotion in elementary schools:
Unfortunately, some defenders of the current system would rather pay lip service to reading reform than accept the core responsibility of teaching our kids. For example, John Ellis, executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, recently penned an editorial in the Indianapolis Star that rejects the idea of retaining students who can’t read at the end of third grade.
The Indiana Department of Education and State Board of Education have made early reading education a top priority. They’ve endorsed a policy framework that includes increased classroom time allocated to reading, intensive professional development for teachers on research-based reading instruction, and tools for assessing student reading proficiency on an ongoing basis in grades K-3, to catch problems early and devote more existing resources to struggling readers.
Under this model, retention is a last resort – a final opportunity to get students back on track with more intensive instruction on reading (not just holding back students in the same classroom with the same approach).
Mr. Ellis conveniently ignores this broader strategy and issues dire predictions of ‘mass retention.’ But if reading is the most important activity in our classrooms, and schools have 3,500+ hours of instruction from kindergarten to 3rd grade within which to teach kids to read, how little confidence must Ellis have in our public schools – his constituents – to fulfill their fundamental duties?
He also attempts to undermine the progress made in Florida, which ended social promotion as part of an approach similar to what Indiana envisions. Florida actually climbed from 31st to 21st in 4th grade public school reading scores from 2002-2007, cutting failure rates by a third. (During the same time, Indiana slid from 15th to 27th in national reading scores.) He implies that minority students were left behind by the Florida reforms – in fact, African-American, Latino, and low-income students all improved their reading performance in Florida from 2003-2007 while closing the ‘achievement gap’ with the general student population (Gauging the Gaps: A Deeper Look at Student Performance – The Education Sector).
Hat tip to Chamber VP of Education Derek Redelman for the info.