Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that there's an opening for principal at Race Brook School. The opening is at Peck Place.
In a conversation with Orange Patch, termed the retention of six first graders at the Peck Place Elementary School a surprise.
“It was something that caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect it,” said the superintendent, who assumed her position within the Orange school district this January. “However, it hasn’t deterred me," she added. "I have no doubt in the district’s capacity to resolve it.”
“It’s an anomaly. Even the teachers recognize it as an anomaly,” McMullin said of the number of students who will not progress to the next grade.
The fact that six of the 58 students in the first grade at are going to be held back came up at the district's Board of Education meeting. Albert deCant, principal of Peck Place, declined to comment on retention at his school.
McMullin said the school district is in the process of compiling information on retention. She also said that the district is in the process of hiring principals for two of the districts’ elementary schools, and that she expected the new hires at the and Schools to be on board by the first of July.
Then, she said, she and an administrative team consisting of Kay Graves, who serves as director of special education, and Colleen Murray, who has just moved into the position of director for curriculum and instruction, will “dig into this as an administrative team and come up with a protocol.”
She said she would have a recommendation for the BOE with a philosophy and a strong research base by the end of the summer. BOE Chairman Jeanne Consiglio was not immediately available to comment on whether the BOE will raise the retention issue at its June meeting.
“Until we really get a chance to dig into this as an administrative team and come up with a protocol there’s not much we can say or do,” McMullin said.
McMullin from Canton. There, she had served as assistant superintendent of schools for five years.
“In general, there’s been three major ‘studies’ of the studies on retention — one as recently as 2000,” the superintendent observed. “In every research study, the research does not support retention."
“There’s been a lot of language around, ‘You give the student the gift of time,’” she continued. “Those children grow regardless of the time you give,” she said. “Repeating the curriculum is not going to solve the problem.”
“Research does not support retention,” she repeated.
She said what matters is the degree to which a school system intervenes to address issues such as a child’s skills deficiency, and also that it pays attention to a child’s needs — teaching the child how to use his or her strengths to address any weakness.
She said the parents of the students who have been retained are comfortable with the decision they’ve made.
“Parents are part of the decision-making process and will continue to be,” she said.
“We need to openly discuss what the research shows and make certain our interventions are thorough and on target so kids do succeed at their grade level.”