Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Social Promotion Blahs*

See latest update to this post here.

How does BloomKlein claim they empowered principals but then dictate from above decisions on who gets promoted or not? There are views on both sides on the part of teachers, who generally seem to come down on the side of using promotion as an arrow in their quiver (they have been left with precious few) to get kids who don't do much work to be motivated.

The non-worker is very different from the child who tries and struggles. If a child can't read at all - no skills after even 5 years in school even with the worst teachers then there is a problem like dysleksia. If the child is 2 years behind then there could also be a problem that no amount of holding the child back in yet another class of 25 or 30 kids will help make a difference.

When I found the graphic, it was attached to an interesting article by Alexander Russo on retention in Chicago which goes into the pros and cons and discusses the research – I don't pretend to absorb the implications, but it is worth a look-see at

I asked George Schmidt for reactions and will add them to this post.

UPDATE, March 20: Leonie Haimson's response on Chicago is posted here.

Read NYC Educator (Get Tough But Pass Everyone Anyway) here on the 8th grade social promotion farce.

Manhattan borough PEP Rep Patrick Sullivan, the lone dissenting vote commented at the blog:
Like most people, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer and I don't think we should push kids into high school who are not ready. We don't support social promotion. Yet the proposal that Klein put forward for approval had no plan to provide services to the retained kids, let alone deal with the pervasive problems of middle schools. Panel members were asked to put faith in the "forthcoming" plan that DOE is developing to turn around middle schools. The end of the administration struck me as an odd time to start working on a plan.

I've looked closely at all the research on these programs to hold kids back based on test scores and pretty much across the board the research says they don't work. A very comprehensive study in the Chicago school system showed that the retained kids had higher drop out rates, the program overall did not help despite costing hundreds of millions to fund another year of school. We will see somewhere between 5,000 - 18,000 additional kids repeat 8th grade. Tweed has not even thought about where they'll put these kids in middle schools that are already overcrowded.

What we've been saying is to instead find these kids early and provide the remediation instead of waiting for them to fail. DOE has an $80 million dollar student achievement database and the most extensively tested student body in the free world yet they can't figure out which kids need help and give it to them. Instead of paying for another year of school, we should invest in creating middle school environments that are more attractive for both students and teachers - small classes, enrichment programs, real music, art, etc.

There's a lot more from Patrick and Leonie Haimson at the NYC Public School Parent blog.

Read Patrick’s lucid explanation of his vote on the new 8th grade promotional policy here: 8th Grade Retention Vote at March 17th Panel for Educational Policy

Leonie's (in her words) somewhat less lucid account, including links to news stories, is here

last night at Tweed.

Both are worth reading.

Loretta Prisco, retired teacher and one of ICE founders writes to ICE-mail:

In my school for many years (until a new test-centric principal took all decision-making into her own hands), we made the decision to promote or hold back very carefully - teachers and supervisors and parents too without some self-serving political crap from a mayor or chancellor. And in fact as pointed out at NYC educator schools will cheat to get around the issue so they look better. Social promotion will be stronger than ever.

Retired teacher and one of ICE founders, Loretta Prisco writes on ICE-mail:
What is so amazing is that our current 8th graders were in 2nd grade when Klein took over. They have been the recipients (or should we say victims?) of his policies,curriculum mandates and personnel appointments and yet he takes no accountability for the fact that 8th graders cannot reach level 2.

Are we expected to believe that after 8 or more years of education that have not enabled students to achieve a level 2 on a standardized test, they will be successful in 6 weeks in summer school. Achieve in 6 weeks what couldn't be done in 8 years? Why not just cancel school and have them spend a few weeks in summer school? Throw in some Saturday sessions to guarantee success.

It is interesting to note that 5 of the 6 identified SURR schools were middle schools this year. Holding back 8th graders will definitively challenge middle schools even more - a challenge they will not be able to overcome. Are we looking at systematic closing of middle schools as we have seen in the high schools? A cause for more charters?

Middle schools can work. Classes of no more than 20, true advisor-advisee sessions, guidance support, good attendance improvement programs, a full gym program, intensive English classes for our ELL population, a full visual and performing arts program, health programs offered on site, professional development on working with the adolescent, teachers teaching within their license area, and providing the mandated services that our special ed. population deserves.

And we should be sending on 5th graders prepared for middle school. That begins with a substantial foundation in the early childhood grades. A full comprehensive program, low class size and further reduced for those who need more attention, intervention with struggling learners in kindergarten, before failure takes its ugly toll.

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