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Retention can spell failure: Use Let’s Go Learn to support early intervention and literacy

Should we hold back students who score below grade level on a high stakes test? State Representative Amanda Price just introduced a bill in Michigan to legislate retention for third graders who score below grade level on Michigan’s state test (Michigan Educational Assessment Program). Leave aside the issue that Michigan may decide to replace MEAP with Smarter Balanced or PARCC. Leave aside whether there will be dollars to provide intervention for the third grade students left behind. Does retention work?

Jane L. David cites a study in her article in Educational Leadership that indicates that when 3rd graders were retained, they: “struggled during the repeated year, had higher rates of special education placement, and two years later showed no advantage over those who had been promoted.” She asks: “After all, why should repeating the same experience produce a different result?” She suggests that intervention begin early in a child’s education. “Understanding why a particular student has fallen behind points to the best course of action.”

Schwerdt and West in their recent study of evidence of the effect of retention in Florida propose that the initial effects of retention are positive but that after six years they are no longer significant. A study in 2012 at the University of Denver’s Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy states: “Evidence showing a benefit of retention is virtually non-existent whereas evidence showing no effect or harm is plentiful.”  In the past, we called retention flunking or failing. The connotations remain even with the name change. An alternative is to intervene early and often with Let's Go Learn.

Let’s Go Learn’s online diagnostic assessments in reading, DORA English and Spanish and DORA Phonemic Awareness, provide teachers with an accurate, in-depth picture of each child’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Valid and reliable, LGL assessments are also computer-adaptive and regardless of grade identify a child’s unique profile across eight subskills: high-frequency words, word recognition, phonics, phonemic awareness, oral vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, and fluency. 

"Without early diagnosis and targeted intervention, struggling students are unlikely to catch up whether they are promoted or retained" (David).  Educators in every state urge teachers to use research-based solutions. Retention is not a research-based solution; in fact, it flies in the face of research. A research-based solution starts and ends with Let's Go Learn.

Tags: learning standards, retention, early diagnosis, failure in reading, reading interventions, DORA, DORA Phonemic Awareness, reading subskills, diagnostic assessments, student progress, 3rd grade promotion, 3rd grade retention

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