St. Louis Schools Send Erroneous Placement Letters to Parents

St. Louis Public Schools, for the second time in four years, have sent out more than 3,600 letters with incorrect information in regard to which school children are assigned. Superintendent Kelvin Adams apologized.

"It was a clerical error but no less an error," Adams said at the district's Special Administrative Board meeting. "We will make sure that the error never occurs again."

KMOV aired an apology from the schools to the district's parents.

"It's unacceptable, we don't like to see things like that happen. We are very sorry and we have apologized to parents for it," Patrick Wallace with St. Louis Public Schools said.

KMOV adds that they were told that one worker made a clerical error, but that rob0 calls are being made to parents to inform them of the mistake and that letters with correct assignments will be in mailboxes by Monday.

This is not the only problem that city school officials are facing as they anticipate the opening of school on Monday, Aug. 11. Students who are behind in reading will not know until they arrive at school whether they are advancing to the next grade or not. The schools' staffs are analyzing data, and summer school performance at this time.

The deputy superintendent of academics for the district, David Hardy, presented a three-tiered approach to remediation in reading and math, which depended on how far behind the student is.

State audits from last fall forced the district to address student retention after the district had "socially promoted" thousands of students in spite of their poor reading skills. The state also recommended more than a dozen other areas that needed changing, such as finance, educational programs, and purchasing.

The state law is that students who are reading below a second-grade level may not be promoted out of fourth-grade. There is another law which prohibits a child from being promoted if they are behind in reading, until the eighth-grade. This, in spite of studies which have shown that students who are retained are more likely to "drop out" of school. Administrators say that holding a student back based on their reading skills is also too costly for the district to handle.

Steve Nelson, head of Calhoun School in Manhattan, believes that the ability to read is developmental. In his article in the Huffington Post, he recalls how he has asked a room full of parents to raise their hand when he mentions an age when their children started to walk. He begins with nine months and works his way up to 15 months.

The number of raised hands, when counted, forms a perfect bell curve. It is predictable that a few children start walking at nine months, most at or around 12 months, and a few at 15 months. The same, he says, is true of children's ages at which they begin to read.

But, he says, "we have built a an entire educational system around the assumption that all children will learn to read at the same time. Nelson recommends reading Harvard-educated Frank Smith's Unspeakable Acts, Unnatural Practices. He also cites an article from the Handbook of Educational Psychology, in which he quotes:

"Remediation and drilling do indeed produce measurable improvements in performance But these gains apparently were a result of the passage of time and maturation as the remediation proceeded."

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