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Are You With the Media?

January 27, 2014

Upon further consideration, yesterday’s post, Barresi Holds a Press Conference, should have been titled Barresi Holds a Photo-Op. I suppose it’s accurate to label it a press conference, in the sense that only the press were allowed to ask questions. Apparently, when non-media tried to ask Barresi about the third grade retention law, she put them off and never returned to them.

A quick search of Twitter coverage of today’s event using the hashtag #oklaed shows that Barresi trotted out a few of the REACH Coaches, a superintendent, and Amber England with Stand for Children to stand with her during the press conference.

From those reports, here were the press conference’s main points:

  1. We need to dispel the myth that retention is about one test given over one day.
  2. Some districts are creating a 3rd to 4th grade transition year.
  3. All interested parties need to make the legislature understand the funds needed to help students meet the provisions of this law.
  4. It is time for debate to be over.
  5. Schools will have 3rd grade test scores by May 9th if they test that grade at the beginning of the testing window.
  6. Ten years ago, Florida had lower reading scores than Oklahoma. Now they are higher than we are.

Here are my thoughts on those main points.

  1. She’s right and wrong. The state will use the test to generate a list of students in the pool for retention. Then, depending on who can qualify for the good cause exemptions, some will move on. We’re either using the test to override what the teacher knows about the child or using what the teacher knows about the child to override the test. Around the state, most third grade teachers are collecting student work in case they need to build a portfolio. In either case, the test is way too important.
  2. I can’t even fathom how this will look, other than the fact that it will vary considerably from school to school. If you’re in a district with one elementary school, and you have five or six children retained under this law, how are you going to pay for that extra teacher? If it is a district with multiple elementary schools, will they centralize that transition class? And how much of a stigma will that create?
  3. Right now, many districts have taken RSA funds designated for reading support for students in 3rd grade and below and prioritized 3rd grade alone. Tutoring, summer academies, and instructional materials are heavily focused on trying to keep this law from adversely impacting a large number of children. Any help schools, parents, or organizations like Stand for Children can give in educating members of the legislature about the need for targeted funding to support this reform would be appreciated.
  4. She’s not trying to stop debate as much as she’s trying to stop dissent. This is a political tactic. There are bodies of research supporting retention and bodies of research that highlight how ineffective and harmful it can be. We know that the state superintendent only likes research supporting her own agenda. Anything else of a scholarly nature she discards with sarcasm.
  5. This will be a neat trick. I have to ask how CTB/McGraw-Hill can manage this when they couldn’t handle any part of the testing process last year. And since Measured Progress will be taking over for them in the future, how motivated will CTB be to put a rush on scoring our tests. Another thought is that we might actually do better to test students towards the end of the testing window. That’s 3-4 weeks of additional instruction before a high-stakes test.
  6. I’m not sure where Barresi gets her information that Florida’s third graders were reading a grade level behind Oklahoma’s a decade ago. The NAEP scores don’t show this at all. Oklahoma was never ahead of Florida in reading. Since 2003, both states have shown growth, and Florida remains ahead of Oklahoma. I don’t know if that can be attributed to the 3rd grade retention law, improved funding for K-12 education, another reform, or something altogether different.

The questions that I asked yesterday on my blog and that my readers added in the comments remain unanswered. Unfortunately we learned nothing from today’s side show.

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  1. Brooke
    January 27, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Any chance there will be a link to a video recording of the “press conference”?

    Like

  2. Jason
    January 27, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    There are SO SO many flaws with this legislation that I can’t imagine the legislator not taking an opportunity to “tweak” it. First, it is insane IEP students should have to be held back BEFORE they get an exemption. Second, research shows it takes 5 to 7 years to acquire the deep understanding of a new language, but Oklahoma gives you 2 years before they expect ESL students to read on grade level. BTW, ESL students are not required to be retained like IEP students (so if you are dyslexic & ESL, hide the dyslexia until 4th grade!) What are small schools going to do? Lets say you are a small school and you only have 1 teacher per grade. What happens if only 1 3rd grader makes an unsatisfactory on the test. Lets even say the 1 3rd grader is a special education student. Are small schools supposed to go out an hire an additional teacher certified in 3rd grade & special ed to meet the requirements of the RSA law dealing with retained 3rd graders? What if that student then qualifies for mid year promotion? There are so many scenarios that haven’t been thought through (no seriously). Do I have to mention schools are now going to have to ask a highly effective teacher to teach students who have already failed the test once. How is that going to play in the Value Added Model culture of using test scores to evaluate teachers? Has no one at the SDE thought to ask why retention in PreK is not covered under RSA guidelines, but retention in Kindergarten has? And for crying out loud, why do we hail this legislation as the end of social promotion when the law itself allows for any student who has been retained twice be socially promoted? Isn’t this a lot of work & political shenanigans to do the same thing good teachers and schools are already doing? The only difference is schools make this decision with parent input and not solely based on the results of a high stakes test.

    Like

  3. January 28, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Sad story, great commentary. Is it time to vote yet?

    Like

  4. Rob Miller
    January 28, 2014 at 8:48 am

    One aspect about Florida’s reading scores that the reformers ignore is that Floridians also simultaneously allocated hundred of millions of dollars of NEW funding to support early education and reading remediation in early grades.

    While NAEP scores have trended upward, they are certainly nothing to brag about. The fact that Florida has experienced some of the largest decreases in ACT and SAT scores since 1999 is often overlooked as well. I will be posting more on this later.

    Like

    • January 28, 2014 at 8:53 am

      But Rob, how much is enough? Geez!

      Like

      • Rob Miller
        January 28, 2014 at 10:39 am

        $2.387 Gazillion to be precise!

        Like

  1. January 28, 2014 at 9:53 pm
  2. February 10, 2014 at 12:17 am
  3. June 15, 2014 at 7:53 pm
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