A house committee in Colorado is considering a bill overhauling literacy requirements from kindergarten through third grade. Currently grade-retention decisions are made locally, but the bill will set up a statewide standard for a minimum reading skill required to pass the grade. This is generating debate over the ethics and practicality of failing young schoolchildren who fall behind on reading.
It’s been highly controversial because there’s so much anxiety around the idea of retention,” said Republican Rep. Tom Massey, the bill’s sponsor.
HB 1238 would repeal the 1997 Colorado Basic Literacy Act. It stops short of mandatory retention but a instead the state ‘recommends’ retention for significant deficiencies in reading skill in younger children. Students who fail third grade reading would need permission from a superintendent to advance to fourth grade.
The retention standards would not apply to students learning English or to students who already have been retained for a year.
The Colorado Education Association is largely enthusiastic about the bill, officially working to amend some parts of it such as reducing the required paperwork so that teaches can focus more on instruction and intervention with students at risk of failing.
The bill does not require mandatory retention, as you may have read or heard. It requires a teacher to meet with the parent of a K-3 student with a Significant Reading Deficiency to decide if the student will advance to the next grade. CEA opposes mandatory retention.
The main concern to the Association however is funding as the bill currently fails to provide additional financing to cover the costs and implementation of the program.
Districts have no money for more or different assessments. No money for literacy teachers and intervention specialists who work with individual students and help teachers with instruction, nor for classroom paraprofessionals who assist with assessments and recordkeeping. No money to reduce K-3 class sizes to the ratio of 1:15, the optimum class size to ensure that teachers have the time for individualized reading instruction and intervention.