Friday, January 18, 2008

8th Grade Holdover Policy Designed to Force Dropouts

It is so simple. Want to enforce the illusion that graduation rates are rising so you can use that issue to run for the presidency? Start holding back 8th graders before they reach high school. Just enough might of them be disgusted with school to drop out right then and there and never besmirch a Bill Gates school with their presence.

There are consequences when 8th graders are held over. These "social seniors" often feel that is the last straw for them and many drop out right then and there. The ones who show can become a problem for the school – their behavior reflects the impact of being held over.

I was in some middle schools that had to isolate these senior holdovers in a special class. The class size was small but they were so turned off, even that didn't make a difference - maybe 50% attended on any given day with some not showing up for a week or more at a time. Spending any time at all in this class made it clear that though these students were not exactly flourishing before, holding them over made a bad situation intolerable.

Driving them out of school before they can affect the HS grad rates is one of the ideas behind the plan.

Here's what Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters had to say in her listserve:
Today, in his state of the City address, the Mayor announced that the DOE will now extend their policy of holding back students on the basis of low test scores to 8th graders as well. This is the way they intend to cure the problems of our middle schools!

As the research overwhelmingly shows, holding back kids doesn’t work. 107 academics, researchers, and national experts on testing understand that this policy is not only unfair, given the unreliability of one day’s test results, but will also lead directly to lower achievement and higher drop out rates. They signed the below letter drafted by Class Size Matters and Advocates for Children in 2004 opposing this policy, and nothing has changed since then. In fact, if this policy worked, the DOE 7th grade retention would have caused a rise in 8th grade achievement rates, but instead as the recent NAEPs show, our 8th grade test scores have been stagnant over many years.

Among those who signed our letter included Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Ernest House, who did the independent evaluation of New York City’s failed retention program in the 1980’s, four past presidents of the American Education Research Association, Robert Hauser, the chair of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Appropriate Use of Educational Testing, and several members of the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council. Even the two largest testing companies are on record that the decision to hold back a child should never be based upon test scores alone.

Indeed, the professional consensus is so overwhelming about the policy’s destructive academic and emotional consequences that its use amounts to educational malpractice, according to Prof. Shane Jimerson, a dean at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Nearly everyone who’s looked at our middle schools realizes that their number one problem is huge class sizes. Our middle schools have the largest class sizes in the state by far, and some of the largest in the entire industrialized world. About one quarter of our middle school students are in classes of 31 or more. Yet this administration refuses to intervene by reducing class size, even when the Middle School task force recommended this step. Instead, holding back 8th graders will likely cause class sizes in these grades to grow even larger.

It’s a shame that this administration refuses to take action to actually improve the opportunities for students to succeed, but rather insists on increasing the chances that they will fail.

3 comments:

  1. Norm- we never promote 8th graders,if they don't meet the exact same promotional criteria that Bloomklein spelled out. Can they really be that clueless?

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  2. Counting the days to Bloomberg's DepartureSunday, January 20, 2008 at 6:17:00 PM EST

    Leonie Haimson is right to the point:

    "As the research overwhelmingly shows, holding back kids doesn’t work."

    Since the battle for high stakes testing at the beginning of his first term, the Bloomberg has undoubtedly has a set policy for the DOE administration to simply ignore inconvenient research.

    (The policy is undoubtedly part of Bloomberg's "vision" for America. One can reasonably speculate that he will use his holdover policy to play up to that segment of the country that doesn't have a care for scholarship. E. i. the folks who don't want to learn the real, but complex answer to the question "Why are kids who can't pass promoted anyway?"

    Yet ironically in the end Bloomberg's DOE has given us more data to support the conclusion that holding kids back doesn't work: "In fact, if this policy [of holding students over] worked, the DOE 7th grade retention would have caused a rise in 8th grade achievement rates, but instead as the recent NAEPs show, our 8th grade test scores have been stagnant over many years."

    "It’s a shame that this administration refuses to take action to actually improve the opportunities for students to succeed, but rather insists on increasing the chances that they will fail."

    I just hope this policy and the multitude of other Bloomberg policies that have been hurtful to the majority of people of this city makes their way across the country if Bloomberg begins a presidential bid in earnest!

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  3. Norm you are falling into the Bloomberg trap once again. Never take these people at their word. You and Leonie should know better. This is all public relations and nothing more.

    What will more than likely happen is that more teachers will be pressured to mark the tests and their classes very leniently to push the kids along. Teachers will be told that a certain percentage must pass or else.

    Ironically, what is being created is more social promotion. It's social promotion through fear and intimidation of teachers.

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