The problem with “Third Grade Guarantee” laws

Many states have recently passed, or are working on, a “Third Grade Guarantee” law, which includes mandatory retention for third graders who do NOT pass the reading portion of the end-of-year statewide exam.

Pam Collier, a parent in Ohio, gave me permission to share her email that explains why that law is as bad for students withOUT dyslexia as it is for those who do have dyslexia.

From: Pam Collier
Date: August 19, 2014
Subject: Third grade guarantee

Dear Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Ohio Department of Education:

I am writing out of concern for my three children and Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee. I have three very different children, and the guarantee will effect each of them differently.

First, I have a 10 year old daughter who is accelerated. She has tested in the gifted range on her Terra Nova, and has scored well above the cutoff of the guarantee scoring — in the Accelerated range for math and reading.

Now you are probably wondering how the guarantee could have any effects on this student. Actually, it has had a huge impact. My daughter spent her entire third grade year being “taught to the test.”

Teachers are terrified of poor test scores which negatively impact their evaluations. Instead of challenging bright young minds, the system is telling these students, “We don’t care whether you have a special gift. We just need you to do well on this test.”

My daughter was afraid of failing the test because teachers are creating so much anxiety and placing way too much pressure on our students.

Now, I have a second daughter who is a twin. She is 7 years old. Because she is a twin, I started to notice differences in her learning very early. At the age of 4, I began asking if she was dyslexic, citing she was having trouble remembering letters, numbers, rhyming, etc. I was assured that she was fine, and that her twin (my son) was just advanced.

Fast forward to kindergarten, and first grade. I asked the same questions.

In my gut, I knew I had to do something. So I pursued outside professional testing for my daughter. She was diagnosed with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and a visual processing disorder.

We tried getting help through the school on several occasions, and were told, “We don’t do one-on-one tutoring, we don’t have the funds for that, we don’t have anyone trained to provide the remediation your daughter needs.” So I hired an Orton Gillingham tutor who was recommended by the International Dyslexia Association.

Now, because she is not on an IEP, she is not exempt from the guarantee. Not exempt!

A child with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder is not exempt from retention because of a single test? A child whose parents are paying over $5,000 a year to a private tutor because her public school cannot meet her needs? A child who was not identified by the school, but was identified because her parents paid for private testing?

A child who works 5 times as hard as a student without dyslexia to learn, who is also working outside of school with a private tutor, may be retained because of a single score on a single test on a single day, in a single year?

Now, mind you, if she should fail and be retained, the state has mandated that she receive remediation “from a qualified instructor, trained in the remediation of students with a disability in reading, from a program that is approved by the state board of education.” This, from the same school system that said, “We don’t have the time, funds, or individuals with training to help your daughter.”

The same school system that told my husband and I that our goals “were too high” for our daughter. Our goals were that she meet the same benchmark as her non-disabled peers by the end of her second grade year. Our goals were too high? That is what we were told. We are being told that we should not hold our daughter by the same standards due to her disability, yet she will be held to the same standard when taking the OAA.

The Third Grade Guarantee is not serving our children’s needs. Research has shown that retention will lead to higher dropout rates. Teaching to the test is devaluing our greatest young minds. We need to have teachers who can challenge our most gifted students, and specialists who can remediate our students with learning disabilities.

We are doing the very best we can for our daughter. My husband and I are both professionals, and we know what is working for her. What recourse will we have if our bright daughter with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder, fails the OAA? She will get held back for what purpose? To receive the “extensive remediation” she is already receiving privately?

Why is it a mandate to retain some of our brightest individuals based on a single test?

Why are charter schools not held to the same standards?

Why do public school students have to undergo more than a dozen standardized tests, while private school students do not?

When will educators from the Ohio Department of Education realize that retention is not the answer?

Sincerely,

Pamela Collier

3 responses

  1. One reason states like to retain 3rd graders is to boost their state’s NAEP scores. NAEP is only given every 2 years to a randomly selected group of 4th and 8th grade students in each state. TN passed a law to retain non-proficient 3rd graders before the last NAEP in 2013 and the scores jumped dramatically. This made the Governor look brilliant, like his punitive reforms and common core caused the increases. The real truth is that the low-scoring kids were still in 3rd grade so they couldn’t take the NAEP test.
    Now that the secret has been revealed, other states want to try the magic, too, to boost their ranking on NAEP.

  2. Wow, that is very interesting TN Mom….but not at all surprising that the schools are utilizing a loop-hole to gain more funding without providing benefits to our kids who so desperately need it.

    I feel at times I am waging a civil war against our education system. We need our schools and our districts to be accountable for educating our children, instead of taking the funding they obtain to provide services to students, but then fail to educate them, all in the name of protecting the bottom line. When our children are uneducated, high school drop outs, with no job prospects, struggling to survive and/or in the system because they lacked the proper tools to survive, and crime rates increase….only then will our government start to link lack of education with poverty and jail time. The school systems will have promoted lack of education, by taking major short cuts in the process of educating students, which is exactly what we don’t want. And our children pay the price for the broken education system in place, in a world, now more than ever where college degrees are required to gain minimal employment. Our children deserve better.

  3. Christina Hauser | Reply

    I’m struggling with very similar concerns right now and would really love to know what happened with Pam Collier’s situation (Aug 14, 2014 letter).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: