Those crazy editorial writers at the Tulsa World are at it again!
In an article this morning, they promote the insane narrative that a group of clueless Oklahoma teachers, bumbling administrators, and out-of-touch parents somehow know more about the reading readiness of their children than a beautiful, well-crafted, all-knowing third grade reading assessment prepared by a testing vendor in New Hampshire.
They start with this manipulative headline:
“Let educators make education decisions, get rid of the automatons and quit branding 9-year-olds as failures”
Fortunately, it is safe to assume very few of our lazy 9-year-olds will pick up a copy of today’s newspaper to catch up on current events. Why would they with all those confusing words and stuff?
It’s better to stay glued to that exciting game of LEGO Star Wars on their Xbox than hurt their brains trying to decipher this obscure English language. If that gets old, they can always go outside and play with dirt.
Seriously, have you spent much time hanging around with a 9-year-old recently? They are lazy, disinterested, and excruciatingly boring. And they smell bad.
So, when the Tulsa World writers state that third grade retention is “a needlessly punitive state law” and “falsely brands children as failures,” they are just giving these naturally incurious 9-year-old slugs another excuse to spend the next three hours in a mindless Snapchat conversation (corporate slogan: “Life’s more fun when you live in the moment – Happy Snapping!”) rather than read a damn book.
Without threats of embarrassment and dire punishment, these moss-growing urchins wouldn’t get off the sofa if the house was on fire. And we expect them to read a book just for fun?
Prior to education savior Janet Barresi coming along, these slug-like prepubescents just sat around in classes drawing stick figures, farting, singing goofy songs, throwing spit wads, and picking their noses.
It’s time to stop treating these stinky snot-monsters like dainty snowflakes.
If a 9-year-old can’t pass a simple third grade reading test, it’s quite obvious they have not been adequately threatened.
So, let’s just flunk the flatulent little troglodytes.
Once we made the prospect of failure a reality, many of these slothful third graders finally came to this harsh conclusion: “Damn, the gig is up. I guess I’ll stop messing around and learn how to read, despite having no interest in learning that fundamental skill. But I do want to get into fourth grade because I’ll finally get to use booger glue and play with blocks.”
Yes, surely that’s what happened.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
The vast majority of 9-year-old children are smart, inquisitive, creative, and want to do well in school. They seek to please their parents and teachers. Many love to read and be read to. Most even smell okay.
I have yet to meet a young child who said, “Reading? Nah, that’s not for me.”
At the same time, we have to acknowledge that reading readiness is a real thing.
Students who struggle with reading in third grade are more likely to get into issues down the road, like academic failure, discipline issues, poor attendance, drop-outs, etc. These problems might be connected to reading issues, or both the problems and the reading issues could be related to some other factor like – oh, let’s just go out on a limb and say … poverty.
Whether we are talking correlation or causation, these are real challenges that must be addressed by our schools.
The thing is, you could take all the evidence that third grade retention works, roll it up in ball with booger glue, throw it across the room to hit little 9-year-old Bobby in the head, and he wouldn’t feel a thing. Or, to be plain, there is scant evidence that retention helps. There is a mountain of evidence that it hurts.
As Stanford researcher, Linda Darling Hammonds, has written:
“We have had dozens and dozens of studies on this topic. The findings are about as consistent as any findings are in education research: the use of testing is counterproductive, it does not improve achievement over the long run, but it does dramatically increase dropout rates. Almost every place that has put this kind of policy in place since the 1970s has eventually found it counterproductive and has eliminated the policy. Unfortunately policy makers often are not aware of the research and they come along years later and reintroduce the same policies that were done away with previously because of negative consequences and lack of success.”
Virtually all cases of reading failure stem from a deficiency in initial reading instruction and the lack of proper intervention, even in kindergarten.
If we actually wanted to solve the problem of third grade reading proficiency there are so many things we could do.
We do know that early interventions work. Increased funding of reading programs and greater access to reading specialists in our schools works. More targeted professional development for teachers in reading instruction works. Greater access to books of interest at school and in the home works. More funding for summer programs to reduce learning losses works. Smaller class sizes work. Better diagnostic assessments to identify student reading deficiencies earlier in school works. Greater awareness and training for teachers in working with children with dyslexia works. Making the decision to hold some children for an extra year in Kindergarten or first grade works.
There really is no excuse for not implementing the powerful knowledge about how to teach youngsters to read. Successful reading instruction and timely intervention will teach almost every student to read, and for those still having problems, support in the next grades will be much more fruitful than retaining those students.
Instead of trying to think of ways to make sure that 9-year-olds aren’t getting away with something by having reading issues, we could adopt an attitude that we will do whatever it takes to help those students succeed.
“People often present this as if there are only two choices — choice one is hold the kids back and the other is socially promote them without any additional resources or strategies,” Darling-Hammond said. “But the third way, the right response, is one in which you identify the resources they must have and ensure they are getting them immediately. They also should look at whether if you sit them down with a book, can they read? Because a lot of kids perform poorly on multiple-choice standardized tests who actually know the material if you present it in a more authentic way.”
As Peter Greene once wrote: “Threatening 9-year-olds that we will punch them in the face if they don’t pass a Big Standardized (BS) test is not only cruel and stupid – it also just plain doesn’t work.”
This is why Oklahoma Representative Katie Henke’s proposed reading legislation (House Bill 1760) is a common sense alternative to the test and punish mentality of the original Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA). It would remove the sunset on the use of school-level reading proficiency teams and also return the focus to those students scoring at the lowest level of unsatisfactory.
Thank you Rep. Henke and kudos to the Tulsa World for reminding us of this important legislation.
Please contact your representative tomorrow and encourage them to VOTE YES on HB 1760.
The munchkins are counting on you.