June 6, 2023

Nancy Bailey: Third-Grade Retention: Parents Show Common Ground Fighting It

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Nancy Bailey continues to examine the issues related to third grade reading retention policies. Reposted with permission.

My last post criticized Science of Reading (SoR) advocates for not fighting against third-grade retention or believing it’s good remediation for reading problems. Third-grade retention based on a test is a ploy to drive parents to take their children out of public schools.

Some parents with children who have dyslexia, who believe in the SoR, say they’re also fighting against third-grade retention. They were especially vocal in fighting it in Tennessee, This included the state’s Decoding Dyslexia organization.

However, that doesn’t mean everyone on board for SoR fights against retention, especially those who’ve been given clout over public education.

Former governor Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush helped make the third grade into the year a student could be retained, and those who are a part of ExelinEd, Jeb Bush’s group, endorse third-grade retention.

Bush promotes the SoR in this Fox News opinion piece, with a picture of Governor Ron DeSantis, and implies teachers fail to teach reading. He’s for school choice, pushed third-grade retention, and can likely be considered the person behind it.

Combining the factors above, claiming teachers don’t understand the SoR, harmful third-grade retention, and school choice, one can see a pattern of pushing for public school privatization.

From ExelinEd:

A Comprehensive K-3 Reading Policy establishes support and intensive reading interventions for K-3 students to ensure they read on grade level by the end of third grade. The policy also requires third grade students to demonstrate sufficient reading skills for promotion to fourth grade. For students severely below grade level and who do not qualify for a good cause exemption, retention provides struggling readers the additional time and intensive interventions they need to catch up with their peers.

This ignores the research indicating that retention doesn’t work. Also, ask why the former governor didn’t emphasize lowering class size in K-3rd grade. There’s research supporting lowering class size in those grades especially.

Journalist Emily Hanford, who reactivated the reading wars with her Sold a Story writings and podcasts, has said little about third-grade retention.

She recently received an award for her work from former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, so speaking out on this terrible practice might be awkward.

And the International Association for Dyslexia suggests intervention is more important than retention. They don’t address the damaging consequences of third-grade retention for students, only that something different needs to be done with the curriculum in the retained year. They list the changes that need to occur before retention can be changed.

While retention policies are receiving a lot of attention due to a push to improve 3rd-grade reading, early identification and intervention are more likely to improve student performance. What we have learned from states like New York and Florida is to not just repeat the same 3rd-grade curriculum; we have to do something different. 

Only when all of these components are in place, will third grade retention legislation achieve its lofty goals of evaluating the progress of all children starting in kindergarten and ensuring their success long into the future by building a strong foundation for future learning. 

According to the research, retention may have a short-term but not long-term benefit, and it certainly doesn’t address how a child feels when they’re retained or how it can damage self-esteem for a lifetime!

It’s also disappointing that Education Secretary Cardona has not spoken out on third-grade retention. Where is he on this matter? Education Secretary Cardona, End Third Grade Retention and High-Stakes Standardized Testing!

There are many well-known advocates of the SoR who focus on cognitive psychology and brain science that don’t speak out on the developmental and psychological harm that occurs with third-grade retention.

No one can say that third-grade retention is evidence-based, considering there’s been much research against it, and many alternatives can replace it, as has been noted repeatedly in past research, making third-grade retention nothing short of bullying.

While many parents stand against third-grade retention, those who believe in the SoR, who continue to push such a harmful practice, show they know little about reading, child development, and psychology. They’re wrong, and third-grade retention will continue negatively impacting children.

There needs to be an end to third-grade retention in this country.

The Harm Caused By the Third Grade Reading Ultimatum April 5, 2022

Education Secretary Cardona, End Third Grade Retention and High-Stakes Standardized Testing! March 11, 2021

The Haunted Third Grade Classrooms Children Fear: Enter and… Stay Forever! October 29, 2019

Force and Flunk, Tougher Kindergarten Lead to Parental Dissatisfaction with Public Schools July 21, 2019

FORCE & FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life October 9, 2017

Jeb Bush, Retention, and the Failed Ferris Wheel of School Reform October 1, 2016

What’s Scary to Kids: Having Dyslexia and Being Held Back in Third Grade!  October 31, 2015

For You Michigan! You Are Wrong about Retention!  October 17, 2015

13 Reasons Why Grade Retention is Terrible and 12 Better Solutions  May 30, 2015

Retention’s False Promise: Instead—Better Alternatives February 13, 2015

Setting Children Up to Hate Reading  February 2, 2014

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