Friday, September 24, 2010

Grade retention: second time, same as the first?

“It does no one any good to promote a student who is unprepared for the next grade,” a New York schools spokesman said in a piece by Sharon Otterman of the Times about the huge increase in the city’s student retention rate this year. True enough. It also does no one any good to have students repeat a grade if they are going to be doing the same old ineffective thing all over again. Some school systems put forth an intense effort to make sure retained students are well-supported and provided instruction that does not just repeat what did not work for them the first time around. Some don’t. Judging from Otterman’s story, it does not sound like New York has any systemwide plans that would ensure they’ll be in the former category rather than the latter. I hope there’s far more that we’re not seeing here.

Journalists report on retention rates and the problem of social promotion. We don’t learn enough, though, about what is (or is not) done to make sure those students are being better educated the second time around.


  1. Arizona's new law requires retention at the third grade if students are unable to read. Are there other statewide laws like this? Most of the districts I cover cite that it will be just a handful of students... it will be interesting to see the comments in May when parents get the news. I hope to get a handle on exactly HOW that's going to be decided.

  2. Many states have policies—not sure if they are enacted into law. California used to have a social promotion law and not sure if it still does. Michelle, do make sure to see what they plan to do differently (1) to make sure students don't need to be retained in the first place and (2) what they wind up doing for the students who are.