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Assistant Superintendent to 3rd Grade Teachers: "This Is Your Do Or Die Year."

Ohanian Comment: What can you say about someone who would say "This is your do or die year" to teachers of eight-year-olds? One can only wonder what those teachers then tell their students.

Someone should tell the reporter about what research says about grade retention.

School Promotion To Be Tied To CRCT

By Clay Wilson
The "Georgia Academic Placement and Promotion Policy" was designed to end "social promotion" in Georgia.

But while it may do that, it also could mean some Henry County parents are in for a rude awakening come summer.

As part of former Gov. Roy Barnes' A-Plus Education Reform Act of 2000, the placement and promotion policy ties students' advancement from one grade to the next to their performance on nationally standardized tests.

This year, it will mean that third graders who do not meet or exceed state standards on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT)'s reading portion will not advance to fourth grade.

Local school systems had until July of this year to implement a "promotion, placement and retention" policy that complies with the state law.

"You know this is your do or die year," Henry County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Greg Fields told a group of Pate's Creek Elementary School third grade teachers Thursday.

Following the state-mandated schedule, the county will implement the new promotion policy for this year's third graders. Next year the law will apply to fifth graders' scores on the CRCT's reading and math sections (for promotion to sixth grade), and in 2005-06 it will extend to eighth graders for promotion to ninth.

Fields said the law resulted from Barnes' conviction that "social promotion" n moving academically unready students forward a grade n was a problem in Georgia. The new law, he said, gives teachers and principals concrete standards to determine whether a child should be promoted.

Once system officials get scores back from the CRCT's administration in, teachers and principals will begin determining whether third graders are ready for promotion.

The first threshold will be the CRCT scores. If a child fails to meet or exceed state standards on the reading portion, he will be removed from consideration for promotion.

However, students will have a chance to earn "placement" in fourth grade by passing a CRCT retest in the summer. Within 10 days of learning that a student failed to meet the CRCT standard, the student's principal must send a letter to the parent/guardian containing the date of the retest and an invitation to enroll the child in a remedial summer school course.

If the student passes the CRCT retest (and meets the other "local standards" n satisfactory grades and teacher recommendation), he will be placed in fourth grade.

If the student fails the retest, he will be retained in third grade unless his parent/guardian files an appeal. If that happens, a "placement committee" consisting of the parent/guardian, the student's reading teacher and the principal must meet and come to a unanimous decision to place the student in fourth grade.

Despite the addition of CRCT reading scores as a benchmark, Fields said the ultimate decision on student promotion still would rest with the school's principal.

Fields said he thinks that the law will be beneficial overall.

"I think there's great intent behind it," he said. "I believe this allows us to say we want definitive evidence that this child has the confidence and the competence to move forward."

Pate's Creek Elementary Principal Kenneth Proctor said he thinks the law will make educators "a lot more vigilant, I suppose, in making sure that those kids (who are struggling with reading) have the skills they need by the time the tests are given."

However, Proctor also said that his school already has a placement, promotion and retention committee that evaluates academically struggling students.

"I don't think it's going to make it any easier. In fact, it's very little different from what we've already been doing," he said.

Rick Beres, a private tutor in Stockbridge, said he thinks some parents will be caught off guard by the new rule.

"Many parents are not aware that there's a law requiring third graders to ‘pass' the CRCT," said the master tutor for KnowledgePoints at Eagle's Landing. "If parents don't become aware of the CRCT requirement before their child actually takes the test, many will be in for a big surprise."

Georgia Department of Education data shows that in 2001-02 (the last year in which the CRCT was administered to all grades), 15 percent of Henry County Schools third graders did not meet state standards.

Beres recommends that parents consult with their child's teacher to check on progress, or have the child take a diagnostic test at a private center. Then, if it is determined that the child is behind, take steps to bring him up to grade level such as enrolling him in tutoring.

"By acting now, if you find your child is behind, there's a good chance of getting him caught up by the time the CRCT comes around," Beres said.

— Clay Wilson
School promotion to be tied to CRCT





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