Education news. In context.
Diversity & Equity
Politics & Policy
Teaching & Classroom
Student & School Performance
Leadership & Management
Charters & Choice
Find a Job
How to be a Chalkbeat source
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our News Partners
Work with Us
October 11, 2018
Holding middle-schoolers back causes dropout rates to spike, new research finds
To hold back or not to hold back? For many policymakers, the answer was clear: it was time to stop allowing struggling students to keep moving through school.
Making the grade
July 1, 2015
After rule changes, fewer students held back, sent to summer school
The number of students headed to summer classes has fallen to its lowest level in six years and the share of students held back a grade has declined by half.
July 3, 2014
Summer school enrollment falls sharply after city reduces role of state tests
The steep decline comes less than three months after officials announced they were changing grade promotion standards put in place by the Bloomberg administration during a decade-long push to ban “social promotion.”
April 2, 2014
City set to overhaul promotion policy, though specifics are few and far between
The city is poised to revamp how it decides whether a student should be promoted to the next grade, lowering the stakes of the state math and English tests in the wake of new pressure from state lawmakers.
February 6, 2014
Fariña signals she's open to untying test scores and promotion decisions
Updated: Speaking to parents in Brooklyn Wednesday night, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña signaled that she might change yet another Bloomberg-era policy: the city's ban on "social promotion."
March 29, 2013
Students held back in 2012 at same rate as before Bloomberg
Just 2 percent of city students were held back last year, the same proportion as in the year before Mayor Bloomberg moved to ban "social promotion," according to data that the Department of Education released today. Of students in third through eighth grade, 7,540 were required to repeat their grade after attending summer school in 2012, according to the data. Four times that number of students had been required to attend summer school because they were not expected to pass the year's state math and reading tests. In 2011, 3 percent of students were retained. Department of Education officials said the decline in the number of students held back was fueled by more students passing the state tests. Because the city doesn’t find out the scores from students' spring exams until August, when summer school is already over, some students who appeared likely to fail must register for summer classes that they ultimately do not need. The department is also working to reduce the frequency with which students are retained, amid research finding that students who are held back are less likely to reach proficiency in the future.
June 8, 2012
Four Years To Reverse A Bad Decision?
This piece originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario. Last Friday, the Department of Education quietly disclosed that it will end one of its signature policies: the all-out ban on so-called “social promotion” of students in city schools. Finally, "in response to ... feedback and research showing that being retained multiple times can be detrimental for students," principals will receive an additional $1,500 for every student who has already been retained and will have the flexibility to promote those students if they judge that to be best for the student. Turns out, simply holding students back doesn’t always help them do better. And sometimes, it’s not best for a child to be 16 years old in the eighth grade. I want to say, “I told you so,” but that isn’t very satisfying. It just makes me angry. Back in 2008, parents and community members from the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice protested the strict retention policy, based on years of educational research. One hundred fifty of us showed up to protest the Panel for Educational Policy “vote” to put 18,000 students at risk of repeating a grade because of their state test scores — without any plan at all to help those students do better. Of course we don't want our children passed on if they are not prepared for the next grade, but we did want proof that a ban would work, as well as a plan to give students the academic supports they would need.
June 1, 2012
In promotion ban rollback, some students to get another chance
Students who have been held back repeatedly will get a renewed shot at moving to the next grade under new regulations that the Department of Education has proposed. When Mayor Bloomberg won control over the city schools in 2002, his first major initiative was to crack down on "social promotion," or allowing students to move to the next grade regardless of whether they passed the year's state tests. The ban first took effect in third grade in 2004 — enabled by Bloomberg's purge of critics from the city school board — and extended to all tested grades in 2009. The proposed regulations, announced today, would roll back that policy for a small and particularly challenging segment of the student population: those who are overage for their grade and have been held back multiple times. Of the roughly 9,200 students who were held back last year, 1,200 fit into that category, according to the Department of Education. Under the current promotion policy, principals aren't allowed to advance students who failed state tests under any circumstance. The new regulations would ease that rule, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky wrote in a letter to principals this week.
June 13, 2011
9 percent of third through eighth graders sent to summer school
Nearly 35,000 elementary and middle school students are being told this week that they should attend summer school based on their low test scores, the city Department of Education announced today. The figure — 34,069 students between third and eighth grade, to be precise — represents nine percent of all students in those grades. And it is an increase of more than 10,000 from the number of students recommended for summer school last year. As part of Mayor Bloomberg's vaunted initiative to end what he calls "social promotion," students who do not pass annual state English and math exams must either attend summer school or repeat their grade. The figures released today are the first public indication of what city students' performance on state tests this year might look like. The results have not yet been released.
October 16, 2009
Cerf attacks Thompson for opposing mayor's promotion policies
Mayor Bloomberg's senior education adviser Chris Cerf (left) and former Congressman Herman Badillo touted the mayor's promotion and retention policies on the steps of City Hall this afternoon. Chris Cerf, the former Department of Education deputy chancellor turned senior education adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's re-election campaign, said today that the RAND report released this week on the mayor's promotion policies "completely vindicates" those policies. Flanked by former Congressman Herman Badillo, Cerf said that the mayor's rival, Comptroller Bill Thompson, showed a lack of leadership for failing to support stricter retention policies during his tenure as president of the city's Board of Education. Badillo, who has also served as the chairman of the City College of New York and who endorsed Bloomberg in July, said that he urged the Board of Education to end social promotion throughout Thompson's term to no avail. "I have been against social promotion for decades," he said."In Puerto Rico, where I come from, if you do your work, you pass, and if you don't, you don't pass." Thompson's campaign has pointed out that he voted for a measure in 1999 that required low-performing third through eighth grade students to repeat a grade of attend summer school. Cerf called that opposition to social promotion "halfhearted," and countered that Thompson opposed Bloomberg's efforts to introduce new promotion and retention standards in 2004.
October 15, 2009
City promotion policy has short-term benefits, study says
Number of students retained or needing academic intervention services, 2004-2008 A highly anticipated independent research study on the effects of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's promotion and retention policies says that fifth graders benefit from the promotion practices -- at least through their seventh grade year. The policy requires that students in several grades reach a certain level on state math and reading tests before going on to the next grade. Citing years of research, critics have charged that the new rules wouldn't help students and could possibly hurt them or cause them to drop out of school later. But researchers at the RAND Corporation, which conducted the study, said that hasn't happened. The lowest-performing students who took tests under the new promotion policy did better later than earlier students who weren't held to the new standards. The study compared the first three classes of fifth-graders held to the promotion standards to the previous class of students who were not affected by the new policy. The report said students benefit because their schools identify them as at-risk earlier and give them extra help. Students surveyed for the report also said being held back didn't make them less confident about school.
August 10, 2009
Social promotion's effect in New York City still largely unknown
Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to expand a social promotion ban will likely be the first item on the school board's agenda when they reconvene. But board members will have to vote on the proposal before the results of the only research on the effects of holding back failing students in the city have been released. The results of a study that the city commissioned from the research institute the RAND Corporation in 2004 are scheduled to be released this fall, according to Department of Education spokesman Andy Jacob. But that will almost certainly come after the Panel for Educational Policy votes on the proposed expansion of Bloomberg's new promotional standards to include fourth and sixth graders. (The Panel for Educational Policy was dissolved after mayoral control expired June 30 but will reconvene now that the Senate has re-authorized the law.) Less than two percent of third, fifth and seventh graders were held back last year under Mayor Bloomberg's tougher promotion standards. Data provided by the New York City Department of Education. Preliminary results of the RAND study, which looks at the performance of third and fifth graders affected by the Mayor's promotion policy over time and will include data from the 2008-2009 school year, were delivered to the Department of Education last year, Jacob said. The study was designed to follow students for five years, Jacob said, and so final results of the study will not be available until the research is completed. The RAND Corporation did release a working paper in 2006 that surveyed promotion and retention policies around the United States and placed New York City's practices in context. Even without research findings on the end of social promotion in New York City, Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein insist that holding back failing schoolchildren benefits them unquestionably.
August 10, 2009
Thompson: I stopped social promotion before Mike banned it
The Bloomberg and Thompson campaigns spent the afternoon jealously guarding their claims to having ended social promotion, though whether either candidate has ended the practice is debatable. Bloomberg campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson led the attack this afternoon, saying that as president of the Board of Education Bill Thompson, currently the city's comptroller, failed to end social promotion. Broadly defined, social promotions means that students are bumped from one grade to the next irrespective of academic problems. Thompson's campaign shot back, defending the mayoral hopeful. "Bill Thompson was at the forefront of ending social promotion long before Mike Bloomberg decided to claim this initiative as his own," read an email from the campaign. In 1999, when Thompson was president of the Board of Education, he did vote for a measure that forced students in grades 3-8 who had low test scores, poor grades, and abysmal attendance to take summer school or repeat a grade.
August 10, 2009
Bloomberg announces an end to social promotion in grades 4, 6
Mayor Bloomberg called for an end to social promotion for the city's fourth and sixth graders this morning, a change that would expand one of the most hotly debated education policies of his tenure. At a press conference this morning, the mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein called their efforts to end social promotion "a great success," citing rising test scores and the decreasing number of students enrolled in summer school. Ending social promotion means that students who do not meet proficiency standards on state tests are held back until they do. Some of these students attend summer school and are bumped to the next grade in the fall when they pass the exam, while others can have waivers signed that let them out of retention program. Bloomberg said that once the citywide school board is reconstituted, he would ask it to end the policy in grades four and six — the only remaining tested grades in which social promotion is still in practice. In 2004, when several board members told the mayor that they would vote against ending third grade social promotion, he had them removed and replaced overnight with people who supported his policies. The event is commonly known as the "Monday Night Massacre." Standing in the library of the Patrick Henry School (P.S. 171) in East Harlem, Bloomberg said that with the new retention policy, "kids will either learn what they need or teachers will know they haven't learned." Asked about researchers' claims that retention policies can raise the dropout rate, Bloomberg said he was "speechless," adding, "It's pretty hard to argue that it does not work." Klein said that since 2004, when the DOE ended social promotion for third graders, support for its end has been "unanimous." There is significant opposition to the administration's retention policies, said Norm Fruchter, director of the community involvement program of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
October 20, 2008
Course credit requirements for middle schoolers?
Should middle school students have to earn credits in specific courses in order to graduate and enter high school? That’s what middle school teacher…
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Ready or Not
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee
The Starting Line