Ending Social Promotion without Leaving Children Behind: The Case of New York City

Ending Social Promotion without Leaving Children Behind: The Case of New York City

Ending Social Promotion without Leaving Children Behind: The Case of New York City

Ending Social Promotion without Leaving Children Behind: The Case of New York City

Synopsis

The New York City Department of Education asked RAND to conduct an independent longitudinal evaluation of its 5th-grade promotion policy. The findings of that study, conducted between March 2006 and August 2009, provide a comprehensive view of the policy's implementation and its impact on student outcomes, particularly for students at risk of retention and those who were retained in grade.

Excerpt

Many states and districts are moving toward test-based requirements for promotion at key transitional points in students’ schooling careers, thus ending the practice of “social promotion”—promoting students without regard for how much they have learned. the rationale for retention is that repetition of the grade will give students an additional year to master the academic content that they failed to master the previous year, and, thus, students should be less at risk for failure when they go on to the next grade. Opponents of grade retention argue that prior research has shown that grade retention disproportionately affects low-income and minority children and is associated with low self-esteem, problem behaviors, and an increased risk of dropping out of school.

In 2003–2004, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) implemented a new promotion and retention policy for 3rd-grade students in New York City (NYC) public schools. the policy was extended to grade 5 in 2004–2005, grade 7 in 2005–2006, and grade 8 in 2008–2009. nycdoe asked the rand Corporation to conduct an independent longitudinal evaluation of the 5th-grade social promotion policy and to examine the outcomes for two cohorts of 3rd-grade students. This study—conducted between March 2006 and August 2009—examined (1) policy implementation, factors affecting implementation, and implementation progress over time; (2) the impact of the policy on student academic and socioemotional outcomes; and (3) the links between implementation and desired outcomes.

This monograph presents the results of the study. Two other reports (Marsh et al., 2009, and Xia and Kirby, 2009) document the results of two additional tasks that were part of the overall study. the first reviews lessons learned regarding the design and implementation of promotion policies in a selection of states and districts with promotion policies similar to that of nyc, and the second presents a detailed and comprehensive review of the literature on grade retention. All three publications should interest policymakers, practitioners, and researchers involved in designing, implementing, or studying interventions to improve outcomes for low-performing students.

This research was conducted by rand Education, a unit of the rand Corporation.

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