Behind the Headline: Bills Prod Schools to Hold Back Third-Graders



By 02/13/2012

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On Top of the News
Bills Prod Schools to Hold Back Third-Graders
Wall Street Journal | 2/13/12

Behind the Headline
Getting Ahead by Staying Behind
Education Next | Spring 2006

Efforts to end social promotion are on the legislative agenda in at least four states, reports Stephanie Banchero in the Wall Street Journal. Legislation that would make students repeat third grade if they can’t pass state reading exams is being considered in Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Tennessee, she writes, reviving debates about whether retaining students boosts achievement or increases their odds of dropping out. In 2006, Ed Next published a study by Marcus Winters and Jay Greene, “Getting Ahead by Staying Behind,” that reviewed the efforts of several states and school districts to end social promotion and analyzed the impact of Florida’s policy of requiring low-performing students to repeat a grade. The study found that ending social promotion helped low-performing students make modest improvements in reading and substantial improvements in math. In 2005, Alexander Russo wrote about how Chicago preserved its controversial program to end social promotion in “Retaining Retention.”




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  • Anne Clark says:

    If the Ed Schools didn’t convince everyone that ability grouping was evil, we would have the ability to put students together who needed similar interventions, and help them “catch up” even if they were promoted to the next grade.

    For instance, if a group of entering 5th graders in a school was still struggling with multi-digit multiplication, then they could start the year at that point in math vs. moving on to whatever was called for in the standard 5th grade curriculum.

    The Newark Public School published math curricula are just a march through the textbooks:(http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/2286107159493137/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=56254)

    Why does this make sense when kids entering any grade may not have mastered the previous grade’s material? But why hold them back a grade? Why do we label parts of the math curriculum with grades? Does Khan Academy do that?

    Have Ed Schools ever looked at different paradigms?

    The grade doesn’t matter. Making sure kids master material before moving on to the next topic does. NJ schools graduate kids who can barely pass an 8th grade math test (HSPA), but their teachers trained at Montclair State think they have taught them pre-calculus.

    Maybe the Common Core will help districts think differently about designing curricula. Whether kids are promoted when 75%+ of the kids haven’t mastered the material is immaterial. They are returning for another year of school and we need to match what they are going to do with what they need – not what is written in absurd curriculum guides. And our Ed Schools seem to be blind to this need.

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