Archive for Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bill would end ‘social promotion’ in elementary schools, but Kansas officials say schools, not state, should decide

February 17, 2011


— An official with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation on Thursday touted the benefits of banning “social promotion,” but Kansas education officials said there was no need for such a state mandate in Kansas.

Christy Hovanetz, a senior policy fellow with the Foundation for Excellence in Education, said passage of the Florida law to retain third-grade students who were functionally illiterate was a hard-fought political battle but well worth it.

Talking to the House Education Committee via teleconference, Hovanetz said that since the law took effect, the third-grade illiteracy rate in Florida has decreased from 29 percent to 16 percent since 2000. And the percentage of retained third-graders peaked at 13.2 percent in 2002-03 and has since fallen to 6.4 percent last year.

The reason, she said, was that the retention law made schools focus and organize themselves around the goal of getting children up to grade-level reading by the third grade.

“There was a lot of political pressure to change the policies, but the perseverance really paid off,” she said.

The Education Committee is considering a similar proposal for Kansas. In addition, Gov. Sam Brownback has said one of his major goals is increasing the percentage of fourth-grade students reading at or above grade level.

Under House Bill 2245, a student would have to repeat third grade if the child scored less than proficient on the third-grade state reading test.

But Kansas education officials said the state shouldn’t mandate whether a student must be retained. Local schools currently make those decisions.

“The best decisions are made when the teacher, principal and parent make that decision as a team,” said Mark Desetti, with the Kansas National Education Association.

Many of the Kansas education officials noted that Kansas students rank ahead of Florida students and their improvements in scores over the past several year have paralleled or exceeded those of Florida students.

They also said some research shows that sometimes retention can be harmful to students, and they said they didn’t like basing the decision on whether to promote a student on the result of one high-stakes reading test.

And they said Kansas schools have already been practicing many of the strategies that Florida has recently put in place, such as frequent monitoring of students and providing reading coaches to children who are struggling to learn.

Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, however, indicated he was interested in the Florida concept.

He said that if the committee works on the bill it would add exemptions to mandatory retention similar to exemptions in Florida’s law. Those include students with disabilities that prevent them from taking a test, English language learners who have had less than two years of English, and students who demonstrate proficiency on an alternate test.


Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

"“The best decisions are made when the teacher, principal and parent make that decision as a team,” said Mark Desetti, with the Kansas National Education Agency. " === Good points, Mr. Desetti. Looks like another salvo from the "smaller government lower taxes and personal freedom types" gone astray. What are they thinking? Florida has its challenges, no doubt, but if anyone wants to hold them up as a model for educational reform, I have some lovely mountain-side property down near Tallahassee I'd be happy to sell them.

tomatogrower 7 years, 3 months ago

Guess what, if you hold the kid back he/she will be in school an extra year, and it's actually going to cost more. Not that I agree that social promotion is good, but it isn't really a money saver.

KSManimal 7 years, 3 months ago

Let's think about this "Florida Miracle" for about three seconds:

1) No third grade kid who fails a reading proficiency test advances to fourth grade.

2) Subsequently, Florida's fourth-grade reading test average increases.

Yeah, when you systematically remove the low-scoring students from the tested population....presto! Your test score average goes up.

I'd like to think Kansans are smart enough not to fall for this smoke-n-mirrors routine.

kugrad 7 years, 3 months ago

First of all, Kansas schools far outperform Florida schools as a group, in reading and math.

There was a huge reading initiative, "Reading First," as part of the NCLB program that was funded during the Bush administration. I don't know if Florida participated, but as it was nationwide, I suspect they did. The emphasis was on improving reading instruction kg-3, so that would also help scores rise.

I recently read an article about Florida's system; I'll see if I can find it and post a link

ferrislives 7 years, 3 months ago

Good points Agnostic. But IMHO, the parents letting their kids pass to the next grade when they're illiterate are usually the same one's who would do something like smoke around their kids in the car and their home, or take them out to a party on a school night. I know a parent who does that with their kid, and surprise surprise, they also get welfare and food stamps.

Unfortunately, because the ultimate decision is the parents and not the school, a lot of kids are getting left behind in the dust. And that's just not acceptable if we as a country are going to excel in the new age of technology. If we as a country want to exist in the future, things must change, and people must be held accountable for their inaction.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

KSM: Good point, but we should be used to smoke and mirrors by now. Both parties have been using it for years.

kusp8 7 years, 3 months ago

This doesn't seem to be too outrageous. Often times educators are forced to allow a student go on to the next grade due to outside pressures; parents, principal, superintendent. Social promotion is NOT a good thing. All it is doing is allowing a student to achieve the peter principle without any chance of beating it.

notanota 7 years, 3 months ago

How often does this happen? Do you have data? Just curious.

notanota 7 years, 3 months ago

By a Wikipedia article with no outside citations? Dang, Wikipedia has grown more powerful than I thought!

Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

kusp8: I don't disagree on that point, and we must intervene to make sure kids are literate, numerate and civilized by about age 10. "Promotion" is not the issue, learning is. Students who fall behind need more instruction than they are currently getting. Making them repeat a grade, in most cases, doesn't have the desired effect. We need more after school programs, tutoring, Saturday school, summer school, in some cases on-line learning and adult volunteer mentors to help out. Much of the new at-risk money put into schools went to programs such as these, but all that's going away in the rounds of school budget cutting. "Outlawing social promotion" is an ideological, not educational tool.

ferrislives 7 years, 3 months ago

I know from personal experience that there are several kids in the area that cannot read anywhere close to their grade-level, yet still get passed to the next grade because of "social promotion". Now days, a lot has to happen for a kid to be held back. And if the parents for whatever reason don't want to hold the kid back in this state, regardless of where the kid is at educationally, then the kid is just SOL.

Some parents focus so much more attention on the social implications of holding their kids back, that by the time they realize that their kid is illiterate, they blame the schools.

I actually think that his house bill is a great idea, and I hope that it passes.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

Well, ferris, you have a point, but schools have the ultimate authority to retain a child if they wish. They often won't do it if the parents fight it, and may wait an extra year. The real problem is there is no such thing as 'third grade.' We just made that up because it's convenient. These are difficult issues, but I doubt a state law merely banning the practice without any additional help being given to the students is the answer. An interesting debate, however. I'm just 'tickled' the 'smaller government types' want more government rules to try and settle something they cannot possibly solve. Simultaneously, they keep insisting on higher standards and more performance while cutting the funds that would be helpful if we really wanted to help students. Guess we should be like Texas, where they retain the kids so they are better high school football players.

situveux1 7 years, 3 months ago

insisting a child learn to read proficiently? Oh the humanity!

valgrlku 7 years, 3 months ago

"Under House Bill 2245, a student would have to repeat third-grade if the child scored less than proficient on the third-grade state reading test."

This is the part that is most worrisome. I don't think that any educational decision should be based upon the outcome of a sole assessment, especially not a "standardized" one.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

I understand your concern, but how else can we make sure that all children are being educated to some sort of consistent standard?

kusp8 7 years, 3 months ago

I have relatives who are principles in the state of KS, elementary and middle school, and they say it happens way too often. I agree that the government should stay out of my life as much as possible, but when people aren't meeting standards because they are too me focused then something has to happen. It'd be nice if the teachers had a backbone, but they can't bc their administrators don't, and they don't bc the district level administrators don't want to fight every parent whose kid needs to be held back. IMHO social promotion is a joke and needs to be stopped.

booyalab 7 years, 3 months ago

In my elementary school (just run-of-the-mill public), there was a program that provided extra one on one help for kindergarten students who were having trouble learning to read. Kindergarten! I was one such student and it did wonders for me. But now, third graders are the ones with illiteracy rates and it's considered controversial to want to solve that problem? That boggles my mind.

tomatogrower 7 years, 3 months ago

Probably there was more funding for such programs when you were in elementary. Remember they have cut lots of funds.

ferrislives 7 years, 3 months ago

Good points Made_in_China. Something needs to be done with the status quo of just passing kids through to the next grade in hopes that supplemental help will catch them up. My own opinion is that if a kid receives supplemental help up to 3rd grade, and they still cannot read proficiently, then they should absolutely be held back.

kusp8 also has a good point in that the teacher's hands are tied with this sort of decision. Just think about it: if a kid is illiterate by the 8th grade, who do you hear people blame? It's almost always the school, and not the parents.

The idea that kids should just be passed along because "government shouldn't be involved in my personal life" is ludicrous! If that sort of person feels that way, send your kid to a private school. But be assured Mr./Mrs. "I hate government; those private schools won't take your kid at all if they are illiterate! What we are talking about are public schools, so your kids are already involved with the government. The standards in public schools need to be raised.

I will agree that depending this decision on one test is pretty scary though. There should be a more comprehensive set of exams before this decision is made. I don't think this would be too difficult if teachers got together and brainstormed.

true_patriot 7 years, 3 months ago

There we go .... More Big Government from Brownback and friends.

Terry Jacobsen 7 years, 3 months ago

Hello. Did you see the governor in this article?? Stop blaming him for everything. This is the state school board. He's not on it.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

This concept is coming from the the No Child Left Behind thinkers. Forget it.

Let's get back to promoting Kansas parents and Kansas teachers as the team not just the schools.

Learning/reading should be begin at home. This takes time/involvement. The library has plenty of books available to help this matter along.

Pretty much every child progresses at their own pace. Each child is not the same. Simply because every child does not pick up reading rates at the same pace is no indication of their intelligence. I've seen late bloomers who once they got it make it very difficult to get their attention if they are in to a book they are reading.

Is 4th grade some magic level? If so says who? Where did this come from?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

In fact I've come to believe elected politicians may well be among the most uninformed group of people on the planet with few exceptions.

ferrislives 7 years, 3 months ago


And what should be done for those parents who are not involved in their child's schooling, and could really care less about it? Not all parents are as involved as they should be, so using a black and white solution isn't going to work. At least this bill requires improvement instead of leaving it completely with one or two individuals.

By 4th grade, if a child cannot read, then they'll be lost if they're passed over with "social promotion". I read somewhere recently that in 4th grade, teaching switches from just teaching reading to using the child's already established reading skills to teach other subjects. If a child cannot read proficiently, and their class is working on more advanced stuff, they will fall even more behind than they were in 3rd grade. It makes sense to me as I look back on my schooling, or the schooling of my children, so I believe that is why 4th grade is the magic year.

Kontum1972 7 years, 3 months ago thats what happened to geo. bush jr?

Terry Jacobsen 7 years, 3 months ago

Grorge W . Bush graduated from Yale and Harvard. Was elected twice as the governor of Texas and twice as the president of the USA. I wonder how thst stacks up against your lifes successes?

Terry Jacobsen 7 years, 3 months ago

No child left behind. Co-authored by Ted Kennedy. Funny how most liberal minded folks gate it and try to blame it on President Bush. Guess what. Read the data. Since it's inception Kansas students are scoring higher. Even though I am not a fan of Ted Kennedy I can't argue with success in the class room.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 2 months ago

The fiscal note on this, should it pass, might be interesting. When legislation or regulation makes tests high-stakes, it increases the pressure to prove the tests are well-designed and do what they are intended to do. The present testing regime will not allow policy decisions on promotion or on the quality of teachers' instruction in a specific class. If the "smaller government, less regulation, stay out of the peoples' business and let them solve problems locally" crowd gets this passed, look for another lawsuit in a few years and a huge increase in the production, validation and implementation costs for a new round of tests.

PS: Kennedy signed on to NCLB because "W" promised to adequately fund it. In the ten or so years since passage, the feds are several tens of billions of dollars behind in the funding predictions then made to bring Senator Kennedy on board. It was, as was pointed out, a bipartisan bill.

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