Brownback's lousy 3rd grade retention idea gets held back
The Kansas City Star
At least one of Gov. Sam Brownback’s very questionable ideas has been put on ice.
The Senate Education Committee, on a 6-5 vote, opposed the Governor’s proposal to make elementary students repeat the third grade if they aren’t reading at grade level.
Good for them. Brownback’s “Kansas Reads to Succeed Act,” which he announced as a key initiative at his State of the State speech, was meddlesome and flawed.
The goal of getting students up to grade level in reading by the fourth grade is a good one. But retention decisions should be left up to principals, teachers and parents.
Many educators believe making students repeat a grade does more harm than good.
Several years ago I interviewed Connie Campbell of Kansas City, an expert in reading education and psychology, about this very subject.
The time to intervene is long before third grade, she said. Whereas reading should be a pleasure for children, reading disabilities and difficulties make it a chore. It becomes punitive and boring. Forcing a student to repeat a grade because of a reading score can make the student resent the act of reading itself. It’s all part of a downward spiral.
As several educators told the Senate committee, ramping up early childhood education and summer school programs are better ways to improve elementary reading.
That said, Brownback’s “Read to Succeed Act” had some elements worth pursuing. It would have made funds available for diagnostic reading tests in the early grades, for instance, and offered fiscal incentives to schools with high reading scores.
But the part about mandatory retention is a stopper, and it’s good the committee saw it that way.