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Can’t wait.

 

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Retention (as used in school districts around the U.S.) is just another word for ‘flunked’ or ‘hold back’ a grade.  Even with the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT, schools continue to practice this method as a way to cope with lower achieving students.  Does it work? 

A few years ago at a parent teacher conference, it was suggested that I retain my middle child who was not performing at grade level. She was on the immature side and, at first; I did not think it was such a bad idea.  Especially, since she was only in first grade.   My husband, on the other hand was against it.  I decided if I wanted to convince my husband this was a good thing, I would have to do my research.  I was surprised to find out the opposite was true.

One of the first sites to pop-up was the The National Association of School Psychologist [www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/pospaper_graderetent.aspx] The one big statement that jumped out at me, states:

“Grade repeaters as adults are more likely to be unemployed, living on public assistance or in prison than adults who did not repeat a grade.” 

Not that I think my sweet little girl would end up down that road, but it does make you sit-up and think about what is going on in society today.  For a practice that does not work, it is interesting that kids being retained has increased over the last 25 years. 

Some of the articles I read on retention refer back to NASP’s (The National Association of School Psychologists) study, so I’ll just say there are quite a few that respect this organization enough to site them.

Another little interesting fact, the U.S. and Canada are the only two countries that practice retention, found on Wikipedia.

A study done by Advocates for Children [www.advocatesforchildren.org/pubs/retention.html], although the study specifically focused on New York’s schools stated: 

“Low performing students who have been retained in kindergarten or primary grades lose ground both academically and socially, relative to similar students who have been promoted. In secondary school grades, retention leads to reduced achievement and much higher rates of school dropout. At present, the negative consequences of grade retention policies typically outweigh the intended positive effects.”

On a site called healthline.com [http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/retention-in-school] they combine some of the research done in one summary and then added:

“Although many school districts involve parents in the decision to retain, in most communities the school system has the right to make the decision, with or without the parent’s support. However, most experts support the idea that parents who are opposed to the decision to retain their child should make their concerns known. Parents should survey other local school systems, both public and private, to see their policies on retention. Parents should also request evidence supporting a retention decision, including details of their child’s academic performance, standardized test results, or other pertinent factors, such as the student’s emotional maturity.”    

There are numerous sites on the internet on this subject and there is no positive study on retention overall.  Sure, I found parents, teachers and a handful of kids who said it worked for them, but the research and overwhelming numbers of students followed, show otherwise.

Obviously, my husband was right and I had to put my foot down on not retaining my daughter.  I was told that if they decided to ‘retain’ her, I would not have a choice, so I left that district.   She is still not performing where she needs to be, so we decided to put her in Sylvan.  It’s only been six weeks and I already see the difference in her confidence and writing/spelling.

She now wants to be a scientist and tells everyone Sylvan is making her smarter. 

Overall, do not blindly listen to what teachers and administrators say is best for your child–do your research.  You are your child’s best advocate.  Retention does not fix what they did not get the first time it only masks the problem.  Ask the teachers where exactly your child has the most trouble and then tackle it, either by working with the teacher, going on line (there are tons of free worksheets on-line in just about every subject) or getting them tutoring.   If your child does not have a solid foundation, the gaps in their learning will get worse and they will get even more frustrated.

For those of you in Harrison District Two, retention is being considered once again, which is why I felt compelled to write this article.  There is another way, let our voices be heard.

Shelly Goodman Wright

www.shellygoodmanwright.com FB Shelly Goodman Wright

LIFE IS PRECIOUS

Life is precious no matter what kind of life it is.  I have been fortunate that the only death my three girls know, in our family, has been two dogs.  Maxwell, a seventeen-year old Chihuahua, died in his sleep early last summer and Monday I put our beagle to sleep (undiagnosed diabetes—shutting down her organs).   

When I was growing up, my family was poor.  Reduced lunch, hand-me-down clothes (from other kids), blue light K-mark specials, and Goodwill, was my life.  We did not have much, but we always had pets.  Dogs, cats, fish, snakes, rabbits, birds, mice, rats, hamsters, frogs, lizards, and once even a wild turtle that lived under a window box, were a part of my life.  Death was a common occurrence and we had half an acre to bury them on.

My girls however, this would be only the second time they have experienced death and only the first time for an animal they bonded with.  I watched my three girls kiss Cassie (the beagle), with tears in their eyes, and say goodbye.  The vet then took the dog to a back room, where they would put her to sleep.   

Today the call came to pick-up the ashes.  I will bury her in the garden along with her friend, Maxwell.  They both liked lying in the sun, and now they will both be in the sunniest part of the yard.  

I hope that next week I will be back on track with my blog.  On one positive note, I did finish a fairytale-fiction short story.  On a downside, I was rejected for publication in Encounter Magazine.   It will not stop me and I will keep writing. 

“I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”  ~James Michener

Happy Writing!

Shelly  www.shellygoodmanwright.com

My Story

I grew up in a typical, dysfunctional home like most people.  My parents, although still married, lived apart; and when my dad came home on an occasional weekend, he could suck down six Moosehead beers before noon.  Hiding in my room or taking off on my bike for a long scenic tours of downtown Hesperia (population 3548) was the only way to avoid conflict. 

I didn’t like conflict. 

In my room time, I filled journal after journal of stories and poetry.  Of course, when I moved out on my own, most were lost or destroyed.  Lacking direction for my life, I failed out of college and flopped around for a few years.  I guess you could say I broaden my horizons with a few odd jobs.  Some were a lot of fun.  I remember working at the Ski Shop in Wrightwood where I met a lot of cute guys, but in the end, the cost to drive up and what they paid me, wasn’t cost-effective.  So I ended up where I started, back as a waitress at Red Robin.  I’m not sure how many times I left, only to come back again.  But I have to say, I met some great folks and had some fun times. 

It wasn’t long at Red Robin before I tended the bar.  I suppose that’s when I started going down the same path as my dad.  Drinking after work, hitting the karaoke bars, driving home barely able to see the road, and sleeping until two in the afternoon.  Funny how fast these things come and you don’t even realize the danger you put yourself in and call it ‘a good time.’  I was chasing my tail with no real direction, but I was living carefree and who cares.

My life changed when I met Tim.  A Christian most of his life and determined to show me a different way of living.  I like to say Tim changed my life, but it wasn’t him.  God was using him to get to me.  To tell me I care about you and want better for your life; and although he’s been pursuing me all my life, finally, I was listening.

Now God really does work in mysterious ways and until recently, I knew where my place was.  My service, my husband, my children, my household; all my duties as a housewife, was very clear until my youngest child started school full-time.  It was then I felt the calling that had always been there before and I thought about those journals I wrote in so long ago.

That’s all it took and before I knew it, I was staring at 70, 000 + words and a completed novel.  That was May of 2009.  Since then, I’ve completed two more novels, had a few published articles, one short story up for publication the end of this year, and now waiting to hear if a magazine (distributed in churches, Christian schools and colleges) will be published the end of this year. 

This has been an interesting journey to say the least.  My father still drinks, and my mother is in a cult, but I keep a relationship with them regardless.  My point to my story is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or the obstacles that get in the way.  I’m turning forty this year and although I sometimes wish I would have started this writing journey earlier, it’s never too late to follow your dreams and you’re never to old to accomplish them.

As a writer, we all want to write something amazing.  We want the reader to fall into the world we created; to get lost in our creative mind, and to emerge with a hunger for more.  That is what every person who ever wrote anything wants:  to either entertain or enlighten.  So how to do we get to that point?  How do we make this happen?

I’ve briefly mentioned a few idea’s in previous blogs, but I’d like to go into more detail with the one thing that has been the most important in my own writing–Peer Editing.

An article on the Guilford College website explains one of the benefits of peer editing:  “The individual editors get valuable editing practice, which enables them to edit their own work better in the future. One of the best ways to improve as a writer–other than through practice, practice, practice!–is by consciously using the criteria of excellent writing to make judgments about what is good in a piece of writing and what is not and then applying those criteria to one’s own work. Thus students in writing classes that employ peer editing regularly praise the practice highly, sometimes reporting it to be a class’s most useful aspect.”  (sited on Guilford College web site:  http://www.guilford.edu/about_guilford)

Belonging to a fantastic writers group in my area (coloradospringsfictionwritersgroup.org ), I could not agree more with the article, especially the underlined sentence above.  Go back and read it again.  What does it mean to you?

When I finished my first novel, I did pass it along to a few friends to read, but having someone tell you “it’s good”, or even “great”, is not as helpful as someone pointing out tense shifts, or overused words and phrases.  Our friends may buy the books we self-publish, even suggest it to their friends, but if it’s sloppy and badly written, was it worth it?  Let’s say the writing is excellent, but your character isn’t strong enough, or your plot is weak.  That will be the lasting impression you leave on the reader’s mind and they won’t be running down to Borders to buy your new book. Peer editing will not only bring these things out in our work, but we begin to see it in other writers work—the same mistakes.  I couldn’t see the mistakes in my own writing, until I started to edit others.  Now, not only do I have feedback written on my piece, but also I’ve learned something from the editing process, helping me become a stronger writer.

There can be a few pitfalls, so before you do the internet scan for peer editing groups, we all need to remember one thing—YOU ARE THE AUTHOR!  Not everyone’s feedback is helpful, and not everyone will agree with our critique of his/her work either.  That’s okay.  In my writing group, there are about ten of us.  Some of the critiques are very similar to each other, so then I know it’s a red flag to fix.  But occasionally one person might say something that no one else agrees with.  In the end, it’s your piece, your baby.  What I ask myself before I scrap a scene or begin to re-write: “Who is it I’m reaching too?  Am I missing my target audience?” and most importantly, “Do I agree with the suggestions?”  Nine times out of ten—for me–I enjoy the critiques that tear my writing apart.  I believe my writing gets stronger because of those who aren’t afraid to say, “I just didn’t get it.”

I’ve had readers tell me that they don’t know how to critique.  They feel inadequate and “not the best person to give you a critique”.  But, I bet you if you asked them about the worst book they ever read, they could ramble off a list.  Maybe you’re one of those people and for a moment, I’m going to assume you are.  Here are some basic things I look for when I critique:

  • Read the entire piece to make sure you have a good idea of what the person submitted.  Make a mark on spots where the flow stops, or you got lost—but not much else yet.  Find the beat!
  •   Start-off with the positive/strengths and give specifics.  Ex:  You liked the premise of the piece, strong characters, good descriptions, etc.
  • From here, you can either talk about the weakness of the piece—again being specific–or go right into the line editing.
  • Line Editing–Hopefully the piece submitted or exchanged is double-space with one and a half margin for adequate comments.  This is where you note grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, below, above, or in the side margin.
  • Finish your critique again with something positive and encourage the writer.  They say half the battle in life, isn’t whether something is easy or hard, it’s your attitude about it.  Leave your writer with something they can hold on to, even if you hated it, without lying to them.  It does them no good for you to say you liked the story if you really didn’t.

These are just a few things I look for, but I do know there are other writers who critique as well and I would love to know your methods, or something I may have left out.  You can add your comments to my web site blog, www.shellygoodmanwright.com to share your strategies with other writers, including me.

Anyone can write and many do.  Unfortunately, in this self-publishing age, badly written books line the shelves everywhere you turn.  Join a group, strengthen your story, polish your writing skills, then head over to agentquery.com and begin the search.

As always, I wish you the very best of luck and happy writing!