Danville school board ponders SB 128, ‘Do over year’ for students

The Danville Board of Education is deliberating how it wants to handle Senate Bill 128 — allow all students who request to repeat this school year, or don’t allow any to repeat.

Kentucky Senate Bill 128 established the Supplemental School Year Program for the 2021-2022 school year. It allows students in grades K through 12 to retake and supplement coursework completed this school year because the pandemic altered teaching and learning opportunities unlike any other academic year. Students and their families must make the request by May. 1

The bill also stipulates that the local boards of education cannot approve or reject individual requests. It must decide whether the district will allow, or not allow, all of the requests by June 1.

Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald told the board that the bill lets students repeat the grade they are currently in. However, they have to take the exact same courses, or ones that are very similar. For example, a student who completed American History this year, would either repeat the same course, or take Advanced Placement (AP) American History.

Seniors can also repeat this school year. However, their GPA and transcript will remain the same as when they graduate in May and cannot be improved by repeating their senior year, McDonald said.

During the meeting, principals Suzanne Farmer, Robin Kelly, Chris Murray, and Thad Elmore presented their research on how holding back a student to repeat a grade can have a negative impact — academically, socially and emotionally.

Farmer said the board of education, “has never been asked to make a retention decision before and that puts you in a difficult spot.” And now, it is being forced to decide “blanket retention” or not.

“Research tells you there’s no benefit,” Farmer said.

Murray said instead of holding back students, “all students need intervention to get back to where they should be.”

Kelly said several Toliver Intermediate students’ parents have already requested their child repeat the school year, and they are A/B students. She said they will be meeting with those parents and explaining the research on why holding back students isn’t beneficial in most cases.

In addition, they will make a plan on how the school will “intervene” and get the students caught up in subjects they may be lacking in, so that they could continue to the next grade with their peers.

Board Chair Steve Becker asked the board to carefully consider whether or not to have “blanket” retention for parents who want their child to repeat a grade.

He told a story about a friend whose 42-year-old son had recently talked about how it negatively affected him when his dad held him back in second grade.

“We have enough mental health problems right now because of COVID. Just trying to deal with these is monumental,” Becker said. “And then to ask a kid … you just are going to place a student back into a situation that truly will affect them for the rest of their life…”

He added that the board has been told to “get into micromanaging curriculum” and get directly involved in advancing students or not. “That should never be our role, and now it’s been put into our hands. It’s a big decision.”