This is a must watch video from PBS News Hour. Ohio has adopted a new policy in which any child not reading at a third grade level by the end of third grade must be retained. All students, no exceptions. They call it the Reading Guarantee. Please take a moment to view the video. The reporter does a good job explaining how the program works, as well as the pros and cons it brings.
I have mixed feelings on this program. Some thoughts I had. . .
- You simply can't guarantee 100% of all students will be on grade level. There are so many outside factors beyond a school's control. Now, I have to assume that there must be a gray area to their 100% guarantee when it comes to learning disabilities or special education students. So, those situations aside, there are other outside factors that play a large role in student achievement. As mentioned in the video, chronic absenteeism is a big one. You simply can't help a student who isn't there to be helped.
- I personally believe parent involvement is key to a student's success. I often see that many of those students who struggle most come from homes where education is not the priority. Or, if it is, the parents seem to believe that education is solely a school place issue and there is little to no academic support given at home. For real success to happen, our students need supervision/support with homework. They need parents that read to them. They need to build schema by having experiences that take them beyond their home and a television and video game. They need to be living literate lives that we can build on in the classroom.
- I absolutely believe that retention in the earlier grades can work IF effective programs are in place to support the remediation of academic deficiencies. However, that is a big IF. I have seen programs in place that, on paper, look like they are on-point. But, when you look at the actual implementation, they just do not meet the needs. They are hampered by lack of materials, scheduling conflicts, organization issues, funding, etc. I think there are too many districts that get standardized test scores and have a knee-jerk reaction to quickly throw in place a program that will "fix" those students not meeting proficiency standards. They may look good on paper, but the actual implementation and results often suffer.
My wish is that we become more proactive in our approach to education rather than reactive. Let's take the time to look at our literacy programs in their totality. What is our basic instructional program? How are we addressing all the areas of literacy at each grade level? Do we have the materials needed? Are we providing out teachers with support and on-going professional development? Are we making data driven AND common sense based decisions in what we do? How are we monitoring our students' progress? How are we making sure we catch those who are falling behind before they get too far behind? What interventions do we have in place? How do we know they are effective? What type of parent involvement do we want to see? How are we education our parents on how they can best support their children's academic success?
Simple questions? No, they aren't simple questions to answer. They require some serious conversation and a true commitment to making our literacy programs effective. But, until we have these conversations and address these issues, I'm not sure programs like Ohio's Reading Guarantee will work.
What are your thoughts?