Predicting failure in fourth grade

Grades and behavior in fourth grade predict who will fail California’s high school exit exam, concludes a new study by Public Policy Institute of California. The quality of high school teachers has little effect.

High schools get extra funds to help 12th graders and older ex-students who’ve repeatedly failed the exam. Too late, say PPIC researchers. Moving some of those tutoring dollars to earlier grades — they suggest a study of the best time to intervene — could

Instead, the authors suggested, “moving a portion of these tutoring dollars to struggling students in earlier grades — when the students are still in school — could be a wise choice. An ounce of prevention could indeed be worth a pound of cure.”

Some 93 percent of students pass the exam by the end of 12th grade; that doesn’t count students who drop out. However, those who barely pass aren’t well-prepared for the future, PPIC points out. Students can pass the math exam with a 55 percent score; it requires middle-school math skills, including some algebra. The multiple-choice test has four options per question, so you can do the math on random guessing. Reading, also multiple choice, requires a 60 percent score; some questions require ninth- and tenth-grade skills.

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  1. Yeah. Teachers could have told them that, with much less expense.

    Those of us who teach a course with a high-stakes test attached have that sinking feeling when we check out our new students math and reading skills (or, I should say, lack of skill). Those who come into physical science with almost no math skills generally don’t pass. Those with OK reading skills, but sub-standard math skills, frequently don’t. Those with poor reading skills, but good math skills, often do.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    In a backhanded way, this study is an excellent argument for NCLB. Why? Because NCLB is making schools realize they should be doing what should have been obvious all along.

    The study argues that fourth graders who can’t read or count should get extra tutoring so that they will eventually pass the high school exit exam. Passing the exit exam is a decent goal, I suppose, but… Hello? We’re talking about fourth graders who can’t read. They should be getting extra tutoring because THEY’RE IN FOURTH GRADE AND THEY CAN’T READ!. They should get extra tutoring, and not only that, they should have been getting extra help in third grade, second grade and first grade.

    Sorry for the yelling, but this reduces me to impotent fury. And I’m glad NCLB is making schools start to look at helping struggling elementary school students.

  3. Cardinal –

    Gotta agree with you on this one. There’s no excuse for any kid without a significant handicap not to be able to read in fourth grade. The fact that it takes the whuppin’ stick of an exit exam eight years later to highlight the problem is just disturbing.

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    Cardinal Fang–I couldn’t have said it better.

  5. SuperSub says:

    If I remember correctly from the frequent reminiscing of my grandfather, much of what we now expect students to learn by 12th grade (especially problem solving skills) used to be taught by 8th grade. The details have changed, the methods have new names, but we have stretched out what used to fit in 2-4 years of schooling across 6-8 years.

    I teach biology in NY and it is usually taught to 9-10th graders, yet I have seen many schools successfully provide the same course to 7-8th graders. Also, the middle-schoolers generally possess more enthusiasm and seem to pick up the concepts just as readily as high-schoolers.

    That being said, I’m reminded of the concept that adolescents’ brains undergo fundamental changes through the middle school years, and the brain of a 5th grader is significantly different from that of a 10th grader. Perhaps, just as how languages are best learned by a certain age, other concepts such as algebra are also best learned by a certain age. Therefore, by stretching a curriculum well into young adulthood, maybe we are handicapping students from acquiring those same problem-solving skills that so many education experts promote.

  6. Mrs. Davis says:

    much of what we now expect students to learn by 12th grade (especially problem solving skills) used to be taught by 8th grade.

    And most people, like my grandfather, left school after 8 years fully prepared to be productive members of society. And my grandfather definitely knew more than the average HS graduate of today and could build an entire house alone except for the really heavy lifting. But then, education shifted from educating students to holding young adults hostage to employ more guards, I mean teachers.

  7. SuperSub says:

    To build upon my previous comments… what is needed is for a district or state to fully re-work the curricula for each subject from K-12 to make it more cohesive.
    Specifically, they need to remove unecessary repetitions and to fill in some of the knowledge gaps between certain years.

  8. I’ve heard California bases its future prison construction needs on 4th Grade reading levels. Shouldn’t that alone be enough to get those children some tutoring?

  9. 4th grade is way too late. How about kindergarten? Our school has made this our number one focus: 90% reading at grade level by 3rd grade. After making that goal, I think 90% is too low, but I didn’t want to freak out my teachers. Once we hit 90% we’ll get to 95%. By the way our first kindergarten group under this program is right at the 90% mark. With focused attention, this can be done.


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