Forty-six students being retained in Quincy School District this year

"I am thrilled that we are underscoring the importance of the expectations by saying you are not prepared for success if you are not at these levels," Quincy School Board member Jeff Mays said. (H-W File Photo)
Posted: Aug. 11, 2014 10:25 pm Updated: Aug. 25, 2014 11:15 pm
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Forty-six students in kindergarten through eighth grade are not being promoted this year because of the Quincy School District’s tougher stance on retention.

Only six were retained last year out of about 6,200 students.

The retention figures were reported at Monday’s Curriculum Committee meeting.

School Board members and administrators decided during the past year to take a firmer position on holding back students who failed to meet academic requirements and who didn’t make sufficient progress in mandatory summer school programs.

“I’m not jumping up and down that we’re retaining 46 kids. That’s not the point of this,” said School Board member Jeff Mays, chairman of the Curriculum Committee.

He said it simply makes sense to hold kids back if they haven’t mastered the basic knowledge they need to advance to the next level of education.

“The goal isn’t to thwack kids. The goal is to provide an opportunity to catch up,” he said. “I am thrilled that we are underscoring the importance of the expectations by saying you are not prepared for success if you are not at these levels.”

Mays said all retained students will be monitored during the coming year and given extra opportunities to expand their academic skills.

“If they show adequate growth, they can come back on grade level. But they need to show that growth,” he said.

Nearly one-half of the students being retained are from Quincy Junior High School, where 12 seventh-graders and 10 eight-graders were held back.

QJHS Principal Dan Sparrow said 144 students with multiple failures in core subjects were invited to attend the school’s mandatory summer school program and earn a chance to catch up academically. He said 123 accepted the invitation. Many of those who didn’t participate will be retained. Some of the others are categorized as special education students and will likely not be retained but will be given extra assistance, he said.

Sparrow said the threat of being held back a year was a big incentive for many students attending summer school.

“Most parents were very, very receptive to this,” he said.

Cheryl Vogler, the QJHS summer school coordinator, said many of the students on shaky ground academically were “frequently absent” during the regular school year but averaged a 90 percent attendance rate during summer school.

“The students were concerned about being retained,” she said.

Elsewhere, one sixth-grader, one second-grader, eight first-graders and 14 kindergartners were retained. No students were retained in grades three, four or five — a statistic Mays found “stunning,” because he believes at least some students in those grades were behind academically.

“We keep thinking that we can move people on and it will be OK, but it’s not,” he said.

School officials say the large number of kindergarten students being retained reflects the fact that many of the district’s youngest students could use an extra year of seasoning before they advance to first grade.

Sparrow noted that many students who start kindergarten just weeks or days after they turn 5 years old often aren’t ready yet for school.

“You’d be surprised how many kids with June, July and August birthdays who started soon — specifically boys — that are behind,” he said.

Julie Stratman, the district’s elementary education director, agreed that many of those students are “very young and not ready for school.” However, she said many parents in those situations “don’t know what to do with their kids.”

While many 5-year-old children would benefit from an extra year of preschool, she said, that also would mean another year of costly day care. Consequently, Stratman said that many parents simply say, “I’m just going to put them in school,” she said.