To the Editor:
The study about retaining English-language learners can also apply to all students in standard classes in elementary schools (“Study: Repeating 3rd Grade Could Help Struggling English-Learners,” February 1, 2019).
One of the principals at a school where I was a library media specialist told me about a standard unofficial literacy “law.” Teachers were pressured by school leaders to avoid submitting a failing grade for any student in the school, even one who didn’t achieve targeted scores on reading tests or coursework. “We cannot fail the students,” the principal said. “They must pass.”
I later instructed high school graduates of that school system at a community college where I taught developmental reading for six years. Some of these graduates’ poor performance on entrance exams had placed them in developmental courses because they weren’t prepared for postsecondary education. The students might have been able to score into college-level courses if they had been held back earlier.
My father’s story about his 6th grade teacher offers a good example of how educators can do a better job of assessing student achievement. The teacher would listen and give assistance when necessary to each student as they read the daily assignment. She made sure that they learned the designated curriculum for each grade level by holding them back until they mastered the lesson.
Today, her methods might have been questioned by school administrators and parents. Teachers can use unbiased personalized-learning applications to produce reliable college-ready students. Personalized learning may not be a panacea, but it could improve the current system of grade inflation.
Lorette S.J. Weldon
Independent Library Media Specialist
College Park, Md.
A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2019 edition of Education Week as In Defense of Retention