Did Florida Legislators Intend to Retain Proficient Readers?

By now, every third grade student being threatened with retention due to their performance (or, in some cases, non-performance) on the ELA-FSA (English Language Arts-Florida Standards Assessment) has received a letter quoting this portion of F.S. 1008.25:

(b) To be promoted to grade 4, a student must score a Level 2 or higher on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment required under s. 1008.22 for grade 3. If a student’s reading deficiency is not remedied by the end of grade 3, as demonstrated by scoring Level 2 or higher on the statewide, standardized assessment required under s. 1008.22 for grade 3, the student must be retained.

As we have discussed before, this section of law falls under the heading “(5) READING DEFICIENCY AND PARENTAL NOTIFICATION,” meaning that it applies [as clarified in section (a)] to “Any student who exhibits a substantial deficiency in reading.” It clearly states that the state considers a Level 2 on the FSA as demonstration that the student’s previously noted reading deficiency has been remedied. The Department of Education (FLDOE) and many districts are insisting that the need to score a level 2 on the FSA applies to all students, not just those “who exhibit a substantial deficiency in reading.” Parents who question this interpretation are being told they are misreading the law.

The result is honor roll students, with straight A report cards and reading levels well above third grade level, are receiving notice that they are being retained in third grade. Schools are making proficient students repeat third grade! You can read their stories here, here, here and here. We cannot believe our legislators intended to retain successful third graders and, as we have written before, we believe spending tax dollars to retest and retain advanced students is accountabaloney at its finest.

What was the legislative intent of F.S. 1008.25? We don’t need to guess because they spelled it out for us:

Title XLVIII
K-20 EDUCATION CODE
Chapter 1008 
ASSESSMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY
View Entire Chapter

1008.25 Public school student progression; student support; reporting requirements.

(1) INTENT.It is the intent of the Legislature that each student’s progression from one grade to another be determined, in part, upon satisfactory performance in English Language Arts, social studies, science, and mathematics; that district school board policies facilitate student achievement; that each student and his or her parent be informed of that student’s academic progress; and that students have access to educational options that provide academically challenging coursework or accelerated instruction pursuant to s. 1002.3105.

Honor roll, straight A students, who read above grade level, have certainly demonstrated “satisfactory performance in English Language Arts, social studies, science, and mathematics” and retaining such students WOULD NOT provide them with “academically challenging coursework or accelerated instruction pursuant.” District policies that retain proficient third graders will not “facilitate student achievement.” The intent of the statute is clear. Legislators do not want to block a student’s access to academically challenging coursework. Retaining proficient readers would do just that.

It has been estimated that the extra cost to retain a child, for one year, is $12,000. There could not be a bigger waste of education funds. Who will be held accountable for that?

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