The current issue of Time Magazine has an interesting article on a growing trend in the US to hold back 3rd graders who are unable to pass a grade level reading test. My new home state of Florida is one of the most strict when it comes to holding back third graders who do not pass the 3rd grade reading proficiency test and in the first year they enforced this policy 21,799 students were held back, up from 4819 the year before the policy went into effect. According to the article 10% of K-8 students nationwide are held back for one or more years. This percentage balloons to 25% when you only look at low income students. Not only is the cost of holding students back enormous at an estimated $12 billion each year, it has far reaching social effects on the children. As the article states, numerous studies have shown that students who are held back have a higher chance of feeling less connected and show less confidence. On the other hand, some studies have shown a link to greater academic aptitude for those who are given an extra year to develop those reading skills.
Reading this article coincided with me attending a ladies event at a local church where nearly every woman there talked about her lack of creativity. While these two occurrences may seem entirely unconnected, I believe that they share a common root. The modern reliance on standardized tests and standards does not allow for individual expressions of creativity nor does it give space for students who develop at different rates. This is one of the natural outcomes of an educational system produced by an industrial model.
As someone who continually advocates the importance of reading, I am sympathetic to the need to insure that our students can read proficiently. I am also aware of the challenges teachers face in trying to achieve educational outcomes with a diverse group of students. But I do worry about the long reaching effects on students who are held back and wondered if any of you had experience in this area. Were you ever held back? How did this experience affect the way you looked at school? Have you had a child held back? Did this influence you to seek alternative educational options such a home schooling or private tutoring? Or did you decided to throw out the entire grading system and look toward a more unschooling approach?
Reading this article reminded me of an earlier post on home schooling as an equalizer. Not only have studies proven that home schooled students outperform their public school counterparts on nearly all measures of achievement, it shows the advantages of an educational system that puts the student first. I am also encouraged by studies that show parental involvement is the key to student success, no matter what educational system the student is enrolled in. As highly involved parents and teachers, I am curious how you may have handled the challenge of an "underperforming" student and I'm sure other readers would appreciate hearing your stories as well.
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