I Tripped Across This Example
Or is this a non-example? I went looking for this after catching the “News” online – and recalled reading about this in the Pfeffer and Sutton book: Hard Facts (2006) – recommended to me several years ago by Richard E. (Dick) Clark, EdD.
What If We Ended Social Promotion? Education Week – April 7 1999
Last year, I chaired a study of appropriate uses of testing for the National Research Council. The NRC panel was a diverse group of 15 scholars from all over the country. We wrote our report, “High Stakes: Testing for Tracking, Promotion, and Graduation,” in response to a congressional mandate. The study was prompted by the Clinton administration’s proposal, in 1997, for voluntary national tests of 4th grade reading and 8th grade math. The panel took no position about the value of voluntary national testing for its stated purposes–to tell American students, parents, and teachers how well they are doing relative to high national standards–but we recommended strongly against such tests’ use for any high-stakes purpose.
Early in its work, the NRC panel decided to consider whether good tests could serve bad purposes. Thus, we evaluated the consequences of high-stakes educational decisions that may be based, at least in part, on test scores. In particular, we found–as American schools presently operate–that decisions to place students in typical lower-level tracks and decisions to hold students back to repeat the same grade are not educationally sound.
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Social Promotion or Retention?
Finding a Middle Ground Should Start in Middle Schools
Edward was an intelligent but unmotivated 7th grader, and one day, in my frustration, I threatened him with retention. It was a threat I knew would never be carried out. Yet Edward’s response startled me. Calmly, and rather smugly, he replied: “That’s what they told me in 6th grade, and here I am in 7th.”
Edward had figured out the system and, as far as he was concerned, was coasting on easy street. He knew he would pass to the next grade regardless of his level of work. So he did none.
Edward’s case illustrates what is possibly the biggest issue facing middle schools today: What should be done with students who fail? Some districts still enforce a system of grade retention, though many believe that holding a student back causes more harm than good. Numerous studies have shown the negative correlation between retention and high school dropout rates. (Examples can be found from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the National Center for Education Statistics. )
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