The Effingham County Board of Education is considering changes to the promotion and retention policy as it deals with first and second graders.
Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff told the board members that the current policy is to retain a student who fails two content areas.
“(This is) a change that has long been a point of concern,” he said.
The change also would have students who fail two content areas be retained, and adds additional criteria.
“It is essential that reading skills are mastered at this level so that first and second grade students can begin the transition from learning to read to reading to learn,” Arnsdorff said. “Therefore, a yearly average below 70 in only reading will also be an indication that the student has not mastered sufficient objectives and will be recommended for retention. The decision to retain a student with a yearly average below 70 in only reading shall be made by a school level committee appointed by the principal and shall be based on the student’s achievement with special emphasis placed on the CRCT, attendance, ability, age, motivation and development.”
Arnsdorff said that under the current policy if a student fails reading and math, the student is retained, but if a student only fails reading, the student is promoted.
“Schools have been concerned about that for a number of years because as you know this school district chooses to put a lot of money into a reading recovery program,” he said.
If a student is still struggling and fails reading, a placement committee will be formed and decide if it is in the best interest for the child to be retained or promoted.
“It does not say that the child has to be retained,” Arnsdorff said. “But it does trigger the fact that all the facts on the table be used, and a decision is made as to the appropriate placement.”
Assistant curriculum coordinator Lynn Johnson said the schools pushed for the change.
“Their concern generally was that you can pass a student who’s passing but barely passing. Is it a service to move them forward when they’re really not ready? They wanted an option to sit down and look at many pieces of data
on this child, not just the final grades,” Johnson said.
BoE Chairperson Vera Jones asked if a large number of students who have gone through the reading recovery program would have been held back under the revision to the policy in the past.
Johnson said there are not a large number of students this would have applied to, but there is a need for the option to prevent even one student slipping through.
Jones asked if there was a way to help the students catch up in second grade. She said she was asking because of a statistic she heard where if a child is held back one grade, that child is 33 percent less likely to graduate and that percentage is approximately double if a child is held back two years.
Arnsdorff said if a committee formed to look at a student’s possible promotion or retention would look at all the facts. That committee would map out a pyramid of intervention using reading recovery teachers.
“There are a lot of resources available, so what this does is it allows a second look at, ‘if you’re struggling here what is the best choice.’ You may decide to promote a child. What that is going to do is you are going to have more thoughtful consideration of where you place that child, a plan to draw up that child’s instructional program for the next year. I don’t think it means that you are going to be retained, but it does give that option to be retained,” he said.
Board member Eddie Tomberlin said he felt the teachers and principal would have more information to make a better decision. Arnsdorff said the change could cause areas of contention, and he thinks the system may need to look at its practices.
Jones said she has concerns with the proposed change.
“We hold back a child, and the teacher happens to be wrong, they are 33 percent less likely to graduate,” she said.
Superintendent Randy Shearouse said it is a big decision, and the parents would be involved in the process, but reading is such a huge part of the curriculum at that age, and if the student is not passing reading, that should be looked at.
Assistant Superintendent Meredith Arnsdorff said students promoted who do not have the reading comprehension needed for their current grade fall behind and become frustrated, which could lead to the student dropping out.
Greg Arnsdorff said he recommended the board hold any decision for 30 days to allow for consideration and public input.
The policy revisions are on the school system’s Web site at www.effinghamschools.com.