"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, May 7, 2010

Research-Based Hypocrisy

This afternoon teachers in Indiana received an email from Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana's State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The purpose of the email was to make nice to teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week. You can read the kind letter HERE.

All done? By the way, did you notice the paragraph which began the letter?
IDOE needs your feedback! The General Assembly passed a new law that requires IDOE to create a plan to ensure students are able to read proficiently by the end of third grade. If they cannot, they must be retained. IDOE released the first draft of this plan to the State Board of Education earlier this week and would appreciate hearing your feedback and ideas for improving specific parts of the plan. Please click here to review the draft plan and email us at 3rdGradeReading@doe.in.gov through May 24 with your ideas. Thank you!
I read the "plan" and noticed that it mentioned "scientifically-based research" or "research-based" instruction nearly two dozen times when describing the type of reading program each school in the state needed to develop. They even included the scientifically based findings of the National Reading Panel* as emphasis.

Unfortunately it seems that no one at the Indiana DOE has read scientific, research-based information about retention. The "plan" blithely talks about retention as an "appropriate remediation technique." There's no mention of 100 years of research which shows that retention not only is expensive and not effective in the long run, but is often harmful to students.

To be fair, there are some reasons for which students would not be considered for retention in the third grade. One of those reasons is if they had been retained at least twice already. It's true that there's really not much use retaining a student who has already been retained twice. Research shows that nearly all students who have been retained more than once drop out without graduating. The school system won't have to worry about those students in the long run.

As I've written elsewhere, the idea of retaining a student in a grade until he/she can pass the one-size-fits-all test has been tried before. It failed in New York and it failed in Chicago. All the scientifically based research indicates that it is going to hurt more students than it helps.

Why do these people think it will be any different here? Are they being hypocritical or just ignorant? Either way, it's the students who will pay the price.

Check out the list of retention links on the sidebar.

Oh...and one more thing...re: the email link for us to click on to send comments... As of 3:00 PM ET this afternoon (May 7) it was a dead link. I tried it and got a "recipient unknown" response. I wonder if they really want our input.

*Click HERE for an interesting view of the work of the National Reading Panel.

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