Half the news that’s fit

Half the news that’s fit to print
Florida third graders who fail the state’s reading exam must repeat the grade, according to Michael Winerip’s New York Times’ column.

Florida has set a national precedent, giving the adults who know these third graders best — their teachers and principals — absolutely no say in who will be kept back.

The column, datelined Orlando, features a poor little boy who’s vomiting in misery and a girl who maybe didn’t take her medication for Attention Deficit Disorder on test day. So it sounds like the whole thing rests on one application of a single exam, with no chance to catch up in summer school or try a second time.

A quick google tells a different story. The Orlando Sentinel reports third graders who flunk the exam can pass to fourth grade if the principal and teacher say the student can read at grade level.

A provision of the new retention law allows students who score at the lowest of the FCAT’s five levels, the failure point, to be promoted based on class work or other tests. But the student’s teacher, principal and superintendent all have to sign off on the decision, and state officials are developing a strict procedure to check each one.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that students can pass based on a portfolio of their third-grade work, summer school or passing an alternative test.

The state education department’s Read to Learn page, says third graders who score at the lowest reading level on the test will be promoted if there is “other evidence that proves these students can read on grade level.” Schools can assign held-back students to a “pre-fourth-grade” class or a third/fourth grade combination class that allows students who improve their reading to be promoted mid-year to fourth grade.

I’ll assume Winerip didn’t pull a Jayson, that he really did go to Orlando and talk to some worried parents. But why didn’t he find out what the law says? It’s just basic reporting.

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