Keith Gambill: Retention isn’t the ultimate solution to reading

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What should Indiana do to make sure students can read by grade 3?

Indiana faces a critical challenge: An increasing number of students struggles to achieve grade-level reading proficiency by the crucial juncture of third grade. This issue has ignited a debate, leading to proposals ranging from stricter retention policies to earlier testing in second grade. However, rather than punitive measures, educators advocate for a comprehensive approach to ensure every child reads proficiently by the time they reach third grade.

The ability to read by third grade is more than an academic milestone; it is the foundation for a child’s future success in both education and society. The focus should shift from merely acknowledging the importance of this goal to actively seeking the most effective means to achieve it.

Retention policies for students who fail the IREAD-3 test are not the ultimate solution. Despite good intentions, research consistently indicates that retention is academically ineffective and emotionally detrimental. It risks stigmatizing and demoralizing struggling students, perpetuating a cycle of academic underachievement. Instead of holding students back, the focus should be on uplifting them.

IBJ.COM EXTRA

To ensure all students can read by third grade, ISTA advocates for a multifaceted approach addressing the root causes of reading difficulties.

◗ Early intervention: Identify struggling readers early, preferably before kindergarten, and provide targeted interventions. Investing in quality universal pre-K education significantly impacts children’s readiness for literacy success.

◗ Smaller class sizes: Reduce class sizes in elementary schools for more personalized attention to students who need it. Smaller classes facilitate individualized instruction and support for struggling readers.

◗ Professional development: Invest in ongoing professional development for educators, equipping them with the latest research-based literacy strategies. Highly trained teachers are essential to effectively address this issue.

◗ Access to resources: Ensure schools have access to adequate resources, including up-to-date reading materials, technology and support staff such as reading specialists and counselors.

◗ Family engagement: Encourage parents to become active partners in their children’s literacy. Family involvement significantly improves reading skills.

Additionally, recognize that many struggling readers come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Addressing poverty-related issues such as access to health care, stable housing and nutrition indirectly improves literacy outcomes.

Imagine a future where your child not only excels academically but also gains confidence in their abilities. Let’s uplift every student and ensure they have the necessary resources and support to thrive. We can do that by investing in early intervention, smaller class sizes, professional development and equitable access to resources. It’s an investment in the future success of our students and the prosperity of our state.

Together, let’s build a brighter future, where reading proficiency is a reality for every third-grader in Indiana.•

__________

Gambill is a middle school music and drama teacher in Evansville and the Indiana State Teachers Association president. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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One thought on “Keith Gambill: Retention isn’t the ultimate solution to reading

  1. Retaining students doubles their likelihood of dropping out of school. Identifying failure alone does not overcome it. Educators and parents need to understand why a student is failing and how to address remedies.
    *. Does the student hear and see well?
    *. Is the student chronically absent?
    *. Does the student have a learning disability?
    *. Is the student malnourished, abused, or emotionally distressed by home situations?
    *. Does the school have a social worker, elementary school counselor, school nurse, and
    psychometrist to identify the contributing causes of reading failure and how to address these
    problems?
    *. Does the school have resource teachers who are reading specialists and are trained in how to
    address students’ individual learning disabilities?

    All of these take resources to recruit, retain, and provide up-to-date training to faculty and other school staff. Indiana has not seen fit to fund maintaining teachers, let alone attracting new ones.

    We’ve been testing, testing, and testing again since 1978. We don’t need a test to tell us who can’t read. Every first grade teacher can tell you that without a standardized test. Our testing money would be better spent on providing individualized attention to struggling students.

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