Sounds sensible doesn't it? It's one of the tenets of NCLB. Here in Texas, if a child fails the reading portion of the 3rd grade or 5th grade TAKS test they are not supposed to be promoted.
There is one tiny fly in the ointment - and the flies as flies are prone to do are busy breeding. Retention does not put a hold on hormones or growth spurts. Puberty, especially among Hispanic and African American children makes an appearance at an earlier age than it used too.
We now have the first wave of the "double retainees" - children who failed first grade and third grade. This is the first year the 5th grade test comes with mandatory retention so we don't have any triples yet. We aren't looking forward to our first encounter. We have 4th graders who will turn 12 this spring, 2nd graders who are turning 10 and third graders who are about to turn 11. Eleven and twelve year olds are bursting with hormones and attitude and belong in middle school.
Kids, being kids look up to these kids - they are older, taller, more developed and have more street smarts. They are as one teacher put it "the leader of the lemmings". Today one head lemming convinced a girl to "make out" with him in the bathroom. Another gave his class an anatomy lesson at lunch by using a hot dog and two kiwi fruit. Yet another brought a condom to school -and knew what it was for. I hope he wasn't planning to use it (though if he was, I guess we should be happy he knows about safe sex).
Granted, we have no business graduating kids who are illiterate but keeping them in elementary school for an additional 3 years isn't the answer.
These kids can drop out at at age 16 - with only a 7th or 8th grade education at best. Scary thought isn't it?