Retention’s up, enrollment’s down

Determined to raise retention rates, an Oregon community college mandated orientation and advising and eliminated late registration. That’s lowered enrollment by 20 percent, lowering state funding by 7 percent. However, graduation rates are likely to rise.

A “scorecard” for California community colleges will show progress and success rates for students who start in remedial classes, college-ready students, career-tech students and those in non-credit classes, such as English as a Second Language.

Ohio: Third graders must read or repeat

Ohio’s “third grade guarantee” — students who don’t read on grade level will be held back – is the subject of a PBS report.

Retention — and remediation — can help students

Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating? asks a Brookings policy brief by Harvard Professor Martin West. Probably not.

Two years after retention at the end of third grade, Florida students who just missed being promoted do better academically than slightly higher-performing classmates who went on to the next grade.

The positive impact of retention on reading achievement is as large as 0.4 standard deviations, an amount which exceeds a typical year’s worth of achievement growth for elementary school students. The impact of retention on math achievement is roughly half as big, perhaps because the remedial services provided to students before and during the retention year focus primarily on reading.

While the benefits fade out by seventh grade, “the retained students continue to perform markedly better than their promoted peers when tested at the same grade level,” West writes. “Although it is too soon to analyze the policy’s effects on students’ ultimate educational attainment and labor-market success,” he thinks “retention and remediation of struggling readers can be a useful complement to broader efforts to reduce the number of students reading below grade level.”

In an earlier post on Florida’s retention policy, I wrote that I wanted to know more about what schools do for students repeating a grade. As it turns out, Florida requires schools to do quite a bit.

First, retained students must be given the opportunity to participate in their district’s summer reading program. Schools must also develop an academic improvement plan for each retained student and assign them to a “high-performing teacher” in the retention year. Finally, retained students must receive intensive reading interventions, including ninety uninterrupted minutes daily of research-based reading instruction (a requirement that has since been extended to all students in grades K-5).

Retention doesn’t seem to help in middle school. In a Chicago study, retention helped third graders, had no effect on sixth graders and increased the likelihood that eighth graders would drop out, adds West.

Study: Social promotion hurts students

Florida students who repeated a grade in elementary school outperformed similar students who were promoted, even after five years, according to a new study in Education Finance and Policy by Jay Greene and Marcus Winters.

The benefits of ending social promotion “diminish, but they remain statistically significant and educationally substantial through middle school,” Greene writes.

Where did all the college men go?

Men are less likely to enroll in college and more likely to drop out. A Denver community college is targeting retention efforts at male students.

Colleges try performance incentives

Community colleges are using performance incentives to motivate students, faculty and staff.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Helping low-income students with their finances and jobs can boost retention.

Ohio bill ‘guarantees’ third-grade reading

Ohio will “guarantee” that third graders can read well before being promoted under an education reform bill that Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign. Poor readers could be held back for one or two years.

This year, more than 22 percent of the state’s third-graders tested at the lowest reading level — “limited” — in October and another 19 percent scored at the basic level.

The bill also makes way for greater use of technology across public education and creates state report cards for vocational and career programs that are tied to Ohio’s job needs. The schools will work in consultation with career-technical education groups to set standards for the report cards.

In addition, the bill begins the process of building a statewide birth-to-third-grade literacy education strategy, requires eye exams for special needs students, and adjusts training and retesting requirements for teachers who are deemed ineffective for two of the previous three years.

Kasich a first-term Republican, championed many of the bill’s reforms.

House Democratic Leader Armond Budish called the reading guarantee an “unfunded mandate that could actually harm children.”

Good news, ugly truth on pre-k ‘savings’

Michigan will save $39,000 in public costs for every high-risk child in pre-kindergarten — $100,000 in Detroit — according to a Fisher Foundation report. These “investment” claims should  be taken with a grain of salt, writes Sara Mead, who links to Lisa Guernsey’s analysis of the claim that preschool saves $10 for every $1 spent.

Very high-quality programs — which are not the norm — can improve outcomes for high-risk kids, Mead writes. But only 3 percent of savings from improved school readiness flow to K-12 schools, the report estimates.

. . . the really flashy high-value savings come from benefits far down the road, such as reduced crime and prison costs, (that) are hard to capture to pay for pre-k. And when early childhood advocates cite such diffuse and distant benefits to claim that the “value of investing in school readiness for just one child at risk of academic failure in Detroit, Michigan, is…about $100,000,” I worry that the perception such claims are oversold may actually increase skepticism about the value of pre-k investments, rather than building support.

It’s more persuasive to cite immediate savings to the school system, Mead argues. The Fisher researchers estimate pre-k saves $2,374 per child in reduced special education and grade retention costs, $3,376 in Detroit.  Michigan spends about $4,453 per child in pre-k. If that’s true, pre-k isn’t free but it’s awfully cheap.

Study: Retention works in Florida

Flunking works in Florida, concludes Marcus Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. To pass from third to fourth grade, students must pass a test. Those who are held back “eceive a rigorous remediation regime aimed at improving their long-term performance.”

By studying the long-term performance of children who just barely passed the test, as well as those who were just barely left behind, it was possible to compare two essentially identical populations: one set of students who moved forward despite only borderline understanding of the material; and another set who stayed behind a year and received tutoring, mentoring, and other remedial interventions.

On average, the students who were remediated did better academically, in both the short and long term, than those who were promoted. Tellingly, the benefits of the remediation were still apparent and substantial through the seventh grade (which is as far as the data can be tracked at this point).

Previous research has found “strong negative consequences” for retention, Winters concedes. He thinks prior studies have used flawed methods.

I’d like to know more about what Florida does for kids who are held back.

I’m tutoring a first grader who’s having a lot of trouble with reading. The teacher thinks she should repeat the grade — she’s one the younger kids — but school policy forbids it because English is the girl’s second language.

Should low achievers be held back?

Should low-achieving kids be promoted or held back?  The research isn’t clear, writes Daniel Willingham.

Until recently, comparisons of kids who were promoted and kids who were retained indicated that retention didn’t seem to help academic achievement, and in fact likely hurt. So the best practice seemed to be to promote kids to the next grade, but to try to provide extra academic support for them to handle the work.

But new studies indicate that academic outcomes for kids who are retained may be better than was previously thought, although still not what we would hope.

I wonder if anyone’s studied the effects of social promotion on teachers.