Welcome to 4.5th grade

Instead of making low-performing fourth graders repeat the year, schools in Jefferson Parish Louisiana have created a “4.5 transitional class,” reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Students do intensive catch-up work in math and language arts, while also taking fifth-grade courses.

To advance to sixth grade the next year — as opposed to a traditional fifth-grade class — students must score a combination of basic/approaching basic in language arts and math and attain a composite score of 1200 on all four components of the LEAP, the Louisiana Education Assessment Program. They also must pass fifth-grade reading, English, math, social studies and science.

This makes more sense than making students repeat fourth grade with the “same stuff, same classrooms, often same teacher,” writes Education Gadfly.

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Comments

  1. So streaming comes in the back door…

    This should work for a while until it becomes too clear what it is and then gets shut down. However, it might disappear more quickly if there’s too much of a racial difference between the 4.5 and 5 classes.

  2. Rusha Sams says:

    Has anyone heard of an 8-Plus School? Students would be “academic red-shirted” for a year because they lack the skills to go on to high school. They would graduate a year later than their peers,if they graduate at all, but the hope is that they won’t drop out and they would have a chance at a regular diploma! It’s an idea that has been proposed in Knoxville, Tennessee. Funding, of course, is an issue, but it might be worth a try.

  3. This makes sense given the political and bureaucratic constraints. If you’re not allowed to track performance year-to-year, then remediation after 4th (and 8th) grade based on LEAP scores seems reasonable. It should be safe politically, since the alternative is to have students repeat 4th grade.

    Of course this is more about shoe-horning everyone into state-mandated requirements, rather than making the most of every student’s potential. But NCLB is better than nothing, and it should marginally reduce the amount of review material that higher-performing 5th graders will have to endure.

  4. When my older brother started school they had what was called a mid-year class. It was kids who missed the kindergarten deadline (weren’t five by the specific date), presumably by 6 months or less. They started in December and by about fifth grade they had either moved up or moved back (at least that was how it worked for his class–not sure if that was how it was phased out or if it continued through to a mid-year graduation in high school). I suspect that summer school was an option for moving up for a kid who was not quite ready. I have alway sort of thought that it was a good way to deal with differing levels of development.

  5. Wasn’t there some recent study that found kids who did a transitional year between kindergarten and 1st were more likely than controls to wind up dropping out of school? Wouldn’t this type of transitional year run the same risk?

  6. CW: What’s the cause and what’s the effect?

  7. wahoofive says:

    It’s great for that one year, but the following year, either
    1. They’ll be put in fifth grade, same result as if they’d just repeated 4th grade
    or
    2. They’ll magically master a year-and-a-half of material and get into 6th grade.

    The chance of the latter is really small, although in order to pretend this program is successful they’ll undoubtedly promote a certain number of students to 6th grade for the next year, where they’ll be unprepared and flounder.

    Some students learn more slowly, and can only accomplish 3/4 of a year’s worth of material in a year. If we’re willing to set up a parallel school which takes 16 years to get them through high school, that might work. That won’t happen, of course. But it’s hard to see this 4.5-grade thing working either, unless there’s a 5.5-grade available the following year, and 6.5 after that. Margo/mom’s experience is at least a partial solution to this.

  8. According to the article, entry into the program will be limited to those students meeting certain criteria– presumably those likely to make it into 6th grade at the end of the year.

    Twenty-two percent of 3,100 is 682 students failing LEAP. If no more than 60 of those are allowed into the 4.5 program, that’s pretty selective.

    Interestingly, subtracting 60 from 682 leaves 622 students repeating 4th grade, or almost exactly 20 percent of the current 4th grade class. Is 20 percent a statutory magic number? It almost looks as though the program is designed to keep the failure rate from going over this level.

  9. Bart:

    According to the article, entry into the program will be limited to those students meeting certain criteria– presumably those likely to make it into 6th grade at the end of the year.

    That’s quite a leap of logic. These are kids who managed to get through 4th grade without mastering 4th-grade material well enough to advance to 5th. What possible evidence could there be to make one believe they could be ready for 6th grade after a year of 4.5-grade? Maybe if they were in a coma so had to miss a lot of school…

  10. What possible evidence could there be to make one believe they could be ready for 6th grade after a year of 4.5-grade?

    None, except that the program is apparently restricted to the top 60 of the 682 students who wouldn’t otherwise have advanced to 5th grade. With that kind of cherry-picking, I have to think that the intent was to admit only those students with a good chance of succeeding.

    How many of those 60 actually do qualify for 6th grade after one year is a different question, and one that I didn’t address.

  11. I believe with the study on the transitional year between kindergarten & first the researchers compared the kids placed in the transitional class with similarly at-risk kids who were instead socially promoted to 1st grade. Both groups had high dropout rates, but the ones who had been in the transition class were less likely to complete their diplomas.

  12. Both groups had high dropout rates, but the ones who had been in the transition class were less likely to complete their diplomas.

    In fairness, the 4.5 class [ideally] replaces 5th grade; it’s not an additional transition class between 4 and 5.

    The idea of a transition year between K and 1st causing higher high school dropout rates is interesting, though. Since students presumably received the same treatment from 1st grade on, it almost looks as though the real variable being measured is age-in-grade; in other words the older the student in a given year of high school, the more likely to drop out.