By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE, N.M. – The debate over retaining students who cannot read at a minimal level by the end of third grade has divided Republican Gov. Susana Martinez — she’s for it — and Roundhouse Democrats — most are against it.
On Wednesday, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research said his research shows retention efforts in Florida have “a positive effect.”
Democrats were unmoved.
“What we’re finding in Florida is a pretty large and sustained positive effect for students,” said Marcus Winter, an assistant professor at the College of Education at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
What about the argument that holding back a failing third-grader stigmatizes students.
“It’s an equally plausible story that it stigmatizes a kid if he moves on to the next grade and he can’t read as well as his peers and continues to fall behind,” Winters said.
His presentation included this graph, comparing Florida students who were retained against those promoted under the state’s retention policy:
But Democrats seized on various elements in the study, including that the Florida program required students who were retained to:
- attend summer school
- be placed in the classroom of a “high-performing teacher”
- receive an additional 90 minutes of daily reading instruction during the school year, and
- have schools develop academic improvement plans for each of the retained students
Citing the cost of such requirements, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said, “If we can write a blank check to the schools, we can do great things.”
“They were showing some good gains and I wouldn’t doubt it given their interventions,” said Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, who is also a high school teacher.
“It certainly doesn’t change my mind,” Soules said. “If anything it adds additional information that it’s huge efforts into intervention that make the difference.”
New Mexico Watchdog talked to Winters after the hearing. Here’s our video:
And here’s our video of Sen. Soules:
Martinez and supporters have tried and failed three times to get the Legislature to pass a third-grade retention bill. It’s a virtual certainty they’ll try again the upcoming 30-day session, which starts in January.
Here’s the link to the PowerPoint presentation that Winters gave the committee.
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