To the Editor:
A recent Education Week blog post discussed a new study by David Figlio and Umut Özek for the National Bureau of Economic Research that indicated early-grade retention for English-language learners might be a good idea (“Study: Repeating 3rd Grade Could Help Struggling English-Learners,” February 1, 2019). Although this information may be valid, students would be retained only because the current education system doesn’t allow a better way to solve the problem.
The potential damage caused by retaining students was not taken into consideration in the study. Students who are held back are likely to feel humiliated, as is the likelihood that those students might wish to drop out when they discover they will be too old to attend school once seniors—in certain cases. Of course, moving students forward without learning the subject matter is also unacceptable. That is why systemic change is necessary.
Grade levels should no longer be indicators of achievement. Yes, keep the students with their age groups, but let’s be more creative about meeting their needs. One way would be reading clubs: Two times a week, put students into small groups based on their learning level and provide them with education support services.
When our roof leaks do we solve the problem by putting a drain in the floor? Or do we fix the roof.
Eldon “Cap” Lee
A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2019 edition of Education Week as A Call for Systemic Change