SANTA FE – An op-ed by Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera in the Albuquerque Journal this week asks voters to support the Governor’s continued agenda to end social promotion in New Mexico schools.
Skandera tells us that social promotion is a “failed policy” and that when children cannot read at grade level, they should be held back. It doesn’t matter that they may score extremely high in math, because she believes their reading score is the determining factor in whether they should proceed to the next grade level.
When Skandera arrived in New Mexico in 2011, and touted the idea to legislators, lobbyists, the newly-elected governor and the media, people flocked to join the bandwagon. But many quickly found out that it would not work. Consequently, proposed changes have been made over the last four years to the bills that have been introduced in the legislature regarding this issue. Unfortunately, they have only added cumbersome paperwork for teachers, extra testing for students who score at a lower level, and reduced parent involvement in retention decisions.
Surprisingly, when these changes were being devised, the opinions of teachers, parents and students affected by them were not considered. Although they are the most important players in this issue, their voices have been ignored by the administration. But many educators, and legislators who are listening to those educators, are asking the public to learn the facts about retention before supporting something that could cost taxpayers millions without producing measurable benefits and could ultimately hurt students.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) reports the following facts:
- academic achievement by those retained is poorer than those who were not;
- the few achievement gains by those retained fade within two to three years after the grade repeated;
- retention is associated with increased behavioral problems and has a negative impact on all areas of academic achievement and social-emotional adjustment; and
- retained students are more likely to drop out of school, and have poorer educational and employment outcomes.
If scientific reports are unconvincing, talk to school teachers. Ask them if they think students should be held back because they scored below an arbitrarily-set score. They will relay their own personal examples of students who had low reading scores in third grade, then naturally matured into excellent readers and improved overall. They will tell you of students who scored low because they were not good testers, but were still excellent learners and did well in class. They also will tell you about students who were held back after consulting with parents, teachers, principals and other professionals in the school. However, none will blame social promotion for a student’s decline.
Skandera is still not listening to teachers or parents, as she continues to draw a line in the sand. Student retention should be based on professionals’ decision and not on a test score. Listen to the facts from those who have the most at stake and truly have students’ best interests at heart.