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School Board Examines Student Acceleration/Retention Policy

Proposal: when holding students back a grade or moving them up, the earlier the better.

The Glen Cove School Board addressed the topic of pupil acceleration and retention at its meeting Monday, hearing recommendations that such decisions should be made primarily in childrens' earliest years of school.

"If a child is held back younger, it's a whole different impact than if it's done later," said Michael Israel, assistant superintendent of curriculum and former pricipal of Landing Elementary School.

He said the decision to separate a student from their peers has to be made on a case-by-case basis, and that doing it in middle or high school can be more detrimental in regards to self-esteem and other issues.

Francine Santoro, principal of Gribbin Elementary School, spoke in favor of that view.

"When children are 4, 5 and 6, we have wiggle room," she said.

Trustee Ida McQuair suggested that a refocused policy include preschool students as well, since that educational level is within the Board's purview.

Superintendent Joseph Laria expressed his support for a revised policy.

"Stronger beginnings make better completions," Laria said. He explained, however, that ultimately the decision is made by a student's parents. The district can recommend that a student stay back or move up a grade, but if the parents refuse, the district can't force it.

The current draft of the proposed new guidelines listed the following principles:

  • Children vary considerably in their rate of development.
  • Factors that affect pupil progress are: chronological age; communication skills; academic ability; achievement; social, physical and emotional maturity; attendance; motivation and background experiences.
  • The programs of instruction within the grade should be differentiated to the individual pupil but based on Common Core Learning Standards.
  • Some children will benefit from more time at the elementary level if the curriculum is suited to their needs and if they continue to be socially and emotionally adjusted to the group.
  • It is strongly recommended that whenever possible retention is limited to kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2, with other interventions used to address lack of progress at upper grade levels. When lack of progress continues, retention may be considered at the upper grade levels.

The Board's next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25 at Gribbin Elementary School.

Dennis J. February 13, 2013 at 01:10 AM
What should be done is to restore the old system which permitted students to start kindergarten or first grade every six months instead of only in September. This will create far more homogenous groups so far as ability is concerned. There would be less need to leave a student back and when it was useful to do so the impact would be less. To assume that all the children, boys and girls, with diffent levels of maturity and learning capability born within a twelve month period will be able to progress at the same rate simply makes no sense. It only ensures that many, primarily the boys who are not fast out of the starting gate, will have negative school experiences early on and be turned off to the educational process. The current system guarantees failure for many.
Jeff February 13, 2013 at 06:31 PM
The option to leave a child behind upsets me tremendously. For anyone to offer that option and rationalize it that leaving a child behind at an earlier age is less destructive has obviously forgotten their own childhood. To see your peers advance while you’re left behind, to be weeded out as incapable, has a tremendous impact no matter what age. The burden is put entirely on the student –the list of guidance and principles places no responsibility on the abilities of the teacher to identify learning problems and capability to address them. It’s the student’s problem. Let’s leave them back and hope for the best. In a recent NY Times essay, we read of the success of the Union City NJ school system, one nearly taken over by the state because of its wretched shape. Now its student achievement scores approximate the state average with a high school graduation rate 10 points higher than the national average. The school district recognized the ‘instructional core’ — the skills of the teacher, the engagement of students and the rigor of the curriculum. I don’t see those listed in the above article. The district abandoned teaching by rote – they focus on getting the students to think at the earliest levels and despite economic and language difficulties. Our schools are where the achievements, abilities, and processing skills of our students have a tremendous impact on our local communities and our county. Stop making excuses.

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