Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who knows what's best for students who struggle?

The Michigan State House has introduced legislation (HB 5111 - here is a summary) that would prohibit Michigan school districts from promoting 3rd grade students to 4th grade if they did not pass the 3rd grade MEAP reading assessment.

As a former reading teacher I understand the value of reading. Reading is central to learning. Students who struggle to read are going to struggle to learn.

Yet this bill does not make sense.

The 3rd grade MEAP is given in October. School promotion decisions are made the following spring. Are we really going to retain a student based on an assessment that is eight months old?

In my district we have very few students at the 3rd grade who do not pass the MEAP assessment. Of those who did not pass the 2012 MEAP assessment in 3rd grade 72% of them were identified as ESL or Special Education students. Is it appropriate to use one assessment to determine if they should be promoted or retained?

The MEAP does not measure growth. Shouldn't the growth that occurs between October, when the MEAP is given, and the following June, when decisions about promotion or retention are made, be factored into decisions about promotion or retention?

Finally, students who struggle need support. In our district we attempt to create a variety of supports for students who struggle. This bill suggests that the only thing that students who struggle need is to be retained. Yet I believe that what students who struggle need is support. Will there be a companion bill that identifies how the state will support these struggling learners?

This bill attempts to fit a simple solution to a complex issue. In doing so it takes away from local school districts - who work with students every day, who communicate with parents on a routine basis, and who understand issues related to motivation, student background, and interest - the ability to determine what is right for a student.

This bill suggests that the state legislature knows what is best for struggling students in every district in the state.

I would disagree.

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