Should students repeat a grade to overcome the “covid slide”?

This week I received an email from a mother who wants me to tutor her daughter in reading.  The child has been attending kindergarten online and has not learned as much as her big sisters had after one semester.

From what I read in the news, many parents have this same concern.  Check out these headlines:

  • Students are falling behind in online school. Where’s the COVID-19 ‘disaster plan’ to catch them up?  —USA Today
  • Research Shows Students Falling Months Behind During Virus Disruptions—The New York Times
  • The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work—Wall Street Journal

What is a parent to do?  How about opting to have their children repeat the grade they are in now?

Florida State Senator Lori Berman has introduced a bill (SB200) to allow parents the choice of having their children repeat the 2020-2021 school year during the 2021-2022 school year.  Usually this choice is made by school systems.  The bill passed out of the education committee with a unanimous vote on Wednesday, February 10.

Florida Governor Ron deSantis endorsed such an idea in the in spring 2020, but he has yet to make it policy.  “Parents may, at their discretion, choose to keep their child in the same grade for the 20-21 school year,” he said many months ago. 

But the Florida Department of Education stepped back from the governor’s blanket endorsement.  “Promotion decisions should be made in consultation with parents, teachers and school leaders based on the students’ classroom performance and progress monitoring data.”

Some Florida principals have opposed the idea of parents, not educators, making the decision to repeat a year of schooling.

If the bill in enacted, parents of elementary and middle grade students would have until June 1 to formally request that their child be retained.  School systems could not negate this request.  Students who are retained would need to complete the 2021-2022 school year in the retained grade even if parents later change their minds.

The bill does not include high school students because, according to Berman, those students have many teachers monitoring their performance and because those students are old enough to advocate for themselves if they fall behind.  Also, assessing age eligibility for athletics makes repeating a year more difficult for high school students.

 Florida school went online last spring as fears of the covid virus spread.  In the fall some schools opened for in-school learning, but many remained online until this past month.

School systems might oppose SB200 for budgetary reasons.  It costs more to educate a student for 13 years than it does for 12 years.  School systems prefer to hire teacher specialists—in reading and ESL, for example—to work with children who have fallen behind.

What do you think?  Should parents, not educators, decide if their children should repeat this school year?

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