School Leaders Discuss Retention

The Bay County School Board is trying to address student retention and remediation.

Retention is simply the practice of holding back a student who does not achieve the necessary level to move on the next grade. The state of Florida has retention standards, but local educators say those standards aren't high enough.

The state currently requires schools to retain all third graders who do not score a 1 or higher in the reading portion of the FCAT test. Local school board members want to see that same standard applied to students who do not score well enough in the 5th and 8th grades.

As of now, the only failing child a principle must retain is a failing child in the third grade. Some educators want to change that.

Lindy Willis is the school system’s Director of Curriculum and says, “Consider a policy that brings about mandatory retention in 5th and 8th grade in Bay County, so that we will have the transition grades between 5th and 6th and 8th to 9th. It’s a logical place to stop student progression so they can catch up with their peers."

But retention is only a small part of this issue. School officials have to offer that child a way to catch-up to his classmates. That's where remediation comes in.

"We realize that if this retention policy passes, we're going to have a large number of 5th and 8th students retained in the next couple of years, but this plan also includes remediation and intervention for students."

But school officials are having a hard time deciding on a remediation plan. The School Board wants a program that will be standard across every school in the county. Some want to pattern the plan after a very successful program in Okaloosa County. It's an aggressive program that gives parents some say in how teachers will help their children catch-up. But School Board members feel that may be too much for the district to tackle immediately.

This standardized approach across the entire school district will be difficult to work out. Some school score higher on the state's A-Plus program and those schools receive more money from the state. The district will have to find a way to spread some of that money to the less successful schools.

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