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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Retentions remain steady in Pasco County schools



For the past decade, Florida third graders have faced retention if they can't pass the FCAT reading exam or otherwise show reading mastery through one of a half dozen alternative exemptions.

The policy has been attacked, questioned, evaluated, applauded and mimicked. Michigan is the latest state to consider adopting the controversial concept.

How does it play out locally?

A new report from the Pasco school district indicates a steady stream of retained third graders, hovering at 9 percent to 10 percent annually over the past five years. The district says state rule is the reason:

"Retention of a student is a very serious step. According to research, students who are retained more than once are not likely to graduate from high school. Under most circumstances, a student may only be retained once at each school level (K-5; 6-8; 9-12). However, in the case of mandatory grade 3 retention, a student may be retained in elementary a second time if the student continues to perform below the state identified minimum levels."

As students move on, the district's retention rate declines, dropping to 1 percent in middle schools (with the majority in eighth grade), and then rises to 10 percent in high school (highest for freshmen, lowest for seniors). From the report:

"As students become more self-directed at the high school level, the somewhat higher levels of grade retention reflect a gradual shift to the placement of personal responsibility on students for developing individual graduation plans for graduation and the acquisition of credits each year while maintaining a 2.0000 unweighted grade point average (GPA). In an effort to decrease the number of students retained at the high school level, schools have begun to focus on students in the transitional ninth grade."

There have been many arguments made that the benefits of retention do not outweigh the detriments. Some Florida lawmakers have recently suggested they might try to amend the law to make it more flexible. What are your thoughts 10 years into this attempt to have all third graders reading at grade level before moving into fourth grade?

[Last modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 8:50am]


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