The results track with those on the “Nation’s Report Card,” or National Assessment of Educational Progress, which are tests give to a sampling of usually fourth- and eighth-grade students nationally. In 2011, 45 percent of poor students in Oklahoma scored below the basic level on NAEP’s reading test, compared with 36 percent of all students. Similar gaps existed between whites and minorities.
The Reading Sufficiency Act is intended to help more children read earlier, to advance from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” by fourth grade.
Supporters say the retention mandate will push schools to get their low performers up to speed and stop social promotion, in which students are moved up without mastering skills.
Opponents say retention could lead to harmful lasting effects, including lagging achievement, higher dropout rates and social and emotional problems. Poor students are less likely to have support resources at home to recover, some experts say.
Researchers have studied the effects of retention for decades. Many have found that retention either has little or no benefit or causes severe harm. Other studies have challenged that view.
A pivotal factor, experts say, is whether retained students get enough intervention to rebound in learning and not suffer in other ways. At the school level, that comes down to money, and in Oklahoma, lawmakers and educators debate whether the Reading Sufficiency Act has enough.
In class: Elizabeth Clarke, a second-grade teacher at Mark Twain, flitters about her classroom collecting papers and answering questions as students learn how to put sentences together. Students finished with their work are reading “Lion King” books and chirping among themselves.
Clarke guides them to their seats and looks over their work.
Clarke has taught first- or second-grade classes for 10 years, and says her passion is teaching reading. She has 32 students in her class, making it hard for her to give them individualized attention, she said.