Letter: A difficult decision for principals and teachers

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The column in The Post on Sunday by Darlena Cunha, “My third-grader thought she had failed her state standardized test,” (Special to the Washington Post) was touching and distressing.

While I cannot speak to the situation that school principals find themselves in Florida public schools, I can attest that the decision to retain a child is among the most difficult among many. Retention takes a child away from his or her peer group for a lifetime. No real research exists proving that retention improves a child’s education; in fact, being “held back” increases the odds of being a dropout. Being retained more than once increases the chance to well over 50 percent.

In North Carolina, we also give high stakes testing beginning in third grade. However, to quote the N.C. General Statutes, § 115C-288: “Powers and duties of principal.

“(a) To Grade and Classify Pupils. – The principal shall have authority to grade and classify pupils, except as provided in G.S. 115C-83.7(a). In determining the appropriate grade for a pupil who is already attending a public school, the principal shall consider the pupil’s classroom work and grades, the pupil’s scores on standardized tests, and the best educational interests of the pupil.

“The principal shall not make the decision solely on the basis of standardized test scores. If a principal’s decision to retain a child in the same grade is partially based on the pupil’s scores on standardized tests, those test scores shall be verified as accurate.”

May heaven help us if we ever get to the day where children are retained by the automatic process of standardized testing without the collaborative consideration of a principal, teacher and parent.

— Ron Turbyfill