Is flunking the answer?

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Updated: Fri, 31 Jan 2014 09:45:23 CST

Holding a child back because their reading skills are lacking is no easy decision for parents. One state senator wants to leave in the hands of the law-- he's pushing for legislation that would make that mandatory.

If Senator Lautenbaugh has his way, third grade students who are not reading at a third grade level would be held back, or retained-- an idea Hastings Public Schools says isn't supported by any facts or research.

"We don't even talk about retention past the kindergarten grade very seriously," said Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Craig Kautz. 

That's because the older a student gets, the greater the lasting effects of retention are.

"Tendency for depression, substance abuse, things like that. and those things start to lead to other things like, obviously, drop out rates," said Alcott Elementary Principal Lawrence Tunks. 

Superintendent Craig Kautz says last year Hastings Public Schools didn't hold back a single student past kindergarten.

"Does that mean that all kids are performing at grade level? No. But we're working very hard to make sure that happens," said Kautz. 

And in many cases, waiting to intervene in the third grade, is too late.

"If a kids not reading by third grade, they're not going to be reading at grade level by the time they're in ninth grade," said Tunks.

That's why Hastings Public Schools says the key to reading success is early intervention-- from appropriate staffing, to reading specialists, small groups and progress monitoring.

"We have to focus on things that are going to make a difference when they're 5, 6, 7 years old," said Tunks. 

And instead of focusing on holding students back, these educators would like to see legislatures fight for funding.

"We're struggling right now to maintain what we have. And we know, we know not only from research but we know from experience that what we're doing is accomplishing exactly what Senator Lautenbaugh wants to accomplish," said Kautz. 

Senator Lautenbaugh's bill, LB 952, went to committee hearing this week where an overwhelming number of educators from across the state spoke out against the bill.