Response to recent conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog discussed a new study that found few students behind in eighth grade are able to catch up by the end of high school and graduate prepared for college or career. Here is a sampling of reader responses:

Fal: Simple formula: You don't leave the first grade unless you can read, and you don't leave the third grade until you can add, subtract, multiply and divide.

LeRoi: A concern for the bottom 3 to 5 percent who get left behind at middle school is noble, but it ignores the elephant in the room: the despicable state of the U.S. education system as a whole. It ignores the majority of students who graduate high school and can't spell, add, use a calculator, balance a checkbook, or know who our founding fathers were. Many high school grads entering their freshman year of college must take remedial courses in math and English.

Admin: We need to have a grassroots movement to change our educational system before it is too late. It is already too late for thousands of students who received inferior educations. How many more will follow? If you look at the overall picture, it is clear many have already given up. Lots of teachers and administrators are frustrated and feel helpless to do anything — resulting in no enforceable discipline, lack of classroom management, and schools being run by the few disruptive, apathetic kids. We must do something with them, and then we can focus on teaching those who want an education.

Lurk: It seems to me that if a kid is a little behind after first grade, he will have to catch up or be even further behind after second grade. After second grade, he will have to catch up even more or be even further behind after third grade. It will just continue to get progressively worse.

Lee: I would wager that most first-grade teachers could tell you which students are "below grade" within the first nine-week grading period. If you accept that premise, the next question is why don't schools loop these below-grade students back and try to catch them up when they are at a point where you can catch them up.

Dunwoody: Our education model is broken. One size does not fit all. I fought "the establishment" to get my November birthday daughter into first grade when Georgia's birthday rule would have her repeat kindergarten (she had attended a church kindergarten). Her kindergarten teachers, who had teaching certificates, told me she was ready for first grade. I thought she was ready. We were fortunate to be able to afford a private school that does not adhere to the birthday rule. She left the private school after third grade and went to public school. She is now entering high school and has excelled both academically and socially. She is more mature than many of her friends that are almost a year older. We need innovation and creativity and a model that better meets the kids where they are.

Sara: Schools are like a mirror, a direct reflection of the community. If the school is successful or failing, community support (or lack thereof) is the reason. We sold our house at a loss in Gwinnett to move to a better school district in south Forsyth County. Best decision we have ever made. A close friend of mine who still lives in our old district says only she and one other person showed up on curriculum night, and there were zero volunteers (besides my friend) throughout the year. Our new district had so many parents wanting to volunteer in the first-grade class that the teacher had to create extra lists just so parents could participate. And no, not all the parents were stay-at-home parents. Many of them work. They just make the time.