Monday, December 9, 2013

Will Retention Become the New Poverty Intervention of Choice?

Michigan's House of Representatives is considering a bill to retain 3rd graders who don't demonstrate proficiency in reading as measured by the MEAP or whatever new state assessment will replace it. That's right, the legislature says that all 8 year-olds have to demonstrate reading at grade level but they don't have a clue yet as to how they will measure that, since they have placed adoption of the SBAC on hold for now.

And just where will most of the 3rd graders who get a "do-over" come from? Why from low income families and impoverished communities, of course. The chart below demonstrates the correlation between reading proficiency measured by the fall 2012 3rd grade MEAP and percentage of the school's students who are eligible for free-or-reduced lunch (a measure of poverty). The schools represented by the diamonds are from an eleven-county West Michigan area.

Reading is certainly important and most schools are doing their best with the diminishing resources they have to address and overcome the obstacles to success their students face every day. We certainly welcome the legislature's help with this matter but punishing children by retaining them and placing them at further risk of dropping out altogether is not the answer. Providing at a minimum adequate school funding to support the learning needs of each child is where the State House should be focusing its efforts.

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