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.
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.