Kill student retention and get real about learning

It’s a practice that just won’t die. Study after study, researcher after researcher, has made the same point: Holding students back when they are not achieving at grade level does not help them academically.  Still, the idea resonates with the public. And outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley garnered praise for instituting a ban on social promotion in 1996. Now, like an aging, punch-drunk prizefighter who just won’t give up and leave the ring, the district’s promotion policy remains alive, if not well.

Hoping to move up

With social promotion officially banned in CPS and few students failing, one would expect that the vast majority of students would arrive at high school better prepared. That’s not the case. But retention has been proven harmful, and the new school leadership will have to solve the dilemma.

National debate re-emerges

Chicago’s debate over social promotion has faded for the most part. In Illinois, few followed the city’s lead in making standardized test scores a primary factor in retaining children.  Many large districts and charter schools say they look at multiple factors before holding children back and don’t pass students along for social reasons—but don’t fail large numbers of students either. Outside of Chicago and Illinois, though, social promotion is re-emerging as an issue.

Getting up to speed

Scrapping social promotion created a dilemma the district has yet to solve: how to educate hundreds of teens who were held back multiple times and are too old for elementary school but not ready for high school.