To encourage literacy among their younger students, the Shelby County Schools has proposed a guideline that second graders should repeat the school year if they do not read at the grade level.
The district and the state have difficulty preparing students to read before the third grade, and have invested heavily in literacy classes. This has led to a significant increase in reading in Memphis, but literacy rates remain stubbornly low.
Deputy Superintendent Joris Ray said politics would guarantee what he calls “the third-degree guarantee.”
“We want our students to be able to compete for years, because reading is definitely critical and they are preparing for success,” Ray told reporters before a board committee meeting began.
Under the proposed directive, the 8,700 second-grade students in the district will have to fulfill eight of the twelve points already registered by the district to enter the third grade. Four of these could result from the passing of English certificate exams every quarter, three from assessments to measure reading growth, three from the state program for students struggling with reading, and two from the year’s final exam, which the district of State used.
The district would require students who do not meet the required number of benchmarks to attend the summer school, where they can catch up in the fall. The following school year, students would have 45 days to catch up before having to repeat the entire second grade.
About 26 percent of Shelby County School’s third grade students can read at the class level, as determined by the state’s TNReady test. The district intends to raise that amount to 60 percent next year and 90 percent by 2025, as third-reading readings are an important indicator of future academic achievement.
The district already has a third-degree retention policy that is not as specific as the policy proposed by Burt.
“The reason we go to Memphis for the second grade is that when you look at the first grade, the fifth month, around December, the gap starts to widen,” said Antonio Burt, District Academic Director. “At the national level, it’s usually first grade, the eleventh month that will be in June, and second grade will start, something happens in Memphis where that gap grows faster.”
The policy follows the model of a Florida law that was in effect when Burt oversaw the change of school there. Prior to going to Florida, Burt ran a school in Memphis in the district’s announced innovation zone for underperforming schools.
If the directive is approved by the Board of Directors of the Shelby County Schools, district officials will track down students next year and recommend those who choose to visit the Summer School in 2020, but do not prescribe it. , Next year, the second-grade students who qualify must visit or stay at the Summer School. Parents will be notified prior to 1 February of each year if their second child’s recurrence of the second grade is at risk. The students who would be completely affected by politics are this year’s kindergarten students.
Burt declined to express his assessment of how many second-grade students could be retained based on current data, and said it was not permissible to judge current students for a non-current policy. He had no estimate of the costs that could be incurred by politics, such as: Additional teachers in the second grade and a communication campaign to explain the initiative to parents and staff.
The board member Stephanie Love said the policy would not help older students who have already gone to the next grade without reading at the grade level.
“Congratulations on what we do for the second grade, but I think we still hurt some students if we do not look at the whole district,” he said during the meeting on Tuesday.
Prompting students to repeat a high school grades may result in drop out rates, but this does not have the same impact on younger students. As research shows, maintaining primary school children along with the summer school can help in the long run.
A Michigan law that would preserve third-grade students who do not read at the grade level will come into effect in the fall. At similarly low literacy rates, parents and district officials fear that the majority of teenagers will be detained in Detroit. The exact meaning of how the reading is seen at the grade level has not been determined so far.
Indiana schools use a separate reading test from their regular state assessment to determine whether third-grade students can read well enough to be promoted. Government policymakers have given schools more flexibility to get students into fourth grade as long as they teach reading skills if they fail the test.
The proposed policy would require three readings from the school board and would probably come to a first vote this month.