Despite a collective howl of protest from parents, teachers, administrators and education academics, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg muscled through a plan to prevent the promotion of third graders who score at the lowest level of New York City's reading and math assessments. Research has shown mixed results for retention, but Bloomberg and NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein say their plan addresses the weaknesses found in other retention initiatives.
Social promotion has made headlines around the country this year. In Georgia, a 2001 law that goes into effect this year requires third graders who don't pass the state's reading exam to either be held back or placed in a transitional class. Chicago implemented a similar plan in 1996. And in April the Consortium on Chicago Schools Research released study findings of "no substantial positive or negative effects of retention two years out" for third graders as well as increased special education placements for retained students and increased dropout rates for those retained in eighth grade.
But, there are other numbers in Chicago to be considered. Overall test scores have risen in the city during the last eight years, attendance is up and the dropout rate is down. Some teachers have publicly called the program a success.
Bloomberg and Klein say their effort will dramatically increase the support given students who fail. Test results for 2004 aren't in yet, but before the tests some 30,000 NYC third graders were given intensive remedial attention, including after school tutoring, breakfast tutoring and small group tutoring …