Frequently Asked Questions about the 3rd Grade Retention Policy
1) How will schools determine which children to hold back?
Children will be held back on the basis of a single, multiple choice-bubble sheet test called the Citywide English and Math Test. Even the manufacturers of the test say that the test was not designed to measure individual children's progress at school and is being misused to decide promotion. Previously, promotion decisions were based on teacher assessment (including in-class tests), attendance, graded school work and results on standardized tests.
2) What if my child is a poor test taker?
Very few eight year olds are natural test takers. Some feel sick and anxious; others make a game out a test; some loose their place in the bubble sheet; others make a pattern out of the bubble sheet; children take tests without having eaten breakfast or being upset about something at home. These are a few of the reasons that standardized tests are poor measures of actual skills like reading and math. There is no substitute for a focused skills assessment by a teacher under the supervision of a principal.
3) What kind of an appeal process will there be if my child flunks the 3rd grade test?
So far no appeals process has been set up for parents to appeal. We suggest that you save your child's school work this year, including the reading log, as evidence of mastering the reading and math skills of 3rd grade. We also suggest you consider demanding that your child be evaluated for special support services in case of possible dyslexia, vision problems, (etc).
4) What is the plan for children who get a 1 on the Citywide English and Math Test?
The plan is to have children attend an all-day summer school program and take the summer school version of the test, which is easier. Summer school as a remedy has a poor track record in preparing students to pass even this easier test. Students who fail the summer school test will be required to repeat 3rd grade at their school. This will affect the learning of other students in the school by contributing to more overcrowding.
5) Is retention a successful strategy for remediating struggling students?
No. Retention has a quarter-century history of failing to help struggling students. The very same policy of mass retentions occurred in New York City in the 1980s . It was called the Gates Program and it was a failure leading to more dropouts.
6) What methods help struggling students?
Third grade is very late to catch a reading problem: it is better to catch these problems in kindergarten and first grade when they are easier to turn around. A third grader who is not reading deserves a focused evaluation of skills by the teacher with the help of the special education specialist to catch possible learning and emotional issues. Children can catch up to their grade level by being in small classes, having one-on-one tutoring, and being taught special skills to overcome learning issues.
7) Isn't third grade retention at least better than "social promotion"?
Third grade retention and "social promotion" are two sides of the same coin: they both fail to identify and spend timely resources on children who desperately need them to succeed in school.
8) Why are the Chancellor and the Mayor advocating Third Grade Retention?
The failure of the NYC public school system to provide a minimal education to thousands of children is a political problem, especially with "mayoral control". Third Grade Retention is a quick fix: it gives the appearance of "getting tough" without the Chancellor and Mayor actually having to do the really tough job of making sure that assessments are accurate and resources are spent on the neediest children.