Gov. Mitch Daniels comes out swinging on his failed
attempt to end social promotion at the third-grade level:
"There will be no more funding, and we'll achieve 100 percent of what
we set out to do. You'll either know how to read, or you won't leave
third grade. We intend to act through rule making, and we think
they've enabled that with the law (House Bill 1367) they passed. By
the time a child is finished third grade the state has spent over
$40,000 and the school district has had 720 days. If that child can
not read, there is a fundamental failure in that district, and they'll
need to remedy it. But the most unacceptable thing to do is to shuffle
that child along to fourth grade and to almost certain academic
failure. It's a cruel thing to do, and it's the wrong thing to do, and
we're going to put an end to it."
Lots of bad assumptions here. First, that the same school district
had the student for 720 days. Not all children begin kindergarten and
finish third grade in the same district. Some move from another
district, another state, another nation -- some even move from refugee
camps in Thailand to an Indiana school.
Secondly, that there's some easy method of determining readers versus
non-readers, accessible to all Indiana school districts. It's not a
question of a teacher sitting down with a student and asking him or
her to read a few pages. Multiple-choice questions on the ISTEP+ test
won't cut it.
Then there's the fact that sound research
disputes the assertion that ending social promotion is a panacea. A
fifth-grader held back in third grade is probably a better example of
cruelty than a struggling reader promoted to fourth grade.
The governor is on the right track wondering how a student reaches
third grade without strong reading skills. The problem is that he
hasn't asked any teachers how that happens. Phyllis Pond, a retired
kindergarten teacher and 32-year Republican legislator has the answer
-- intervene early. Waiting until third grade is far too late, she
Let's hope that educators have some input in the rule-making process