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Education Working Paper
No. 7  December 2004

An Evaluation of Florida’s Program
to End Social Promotion

About the Authors

Jay P. Greene is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Education Research Office, where he conducts research and writes about education policy. He has conducted evaluations of school choice and accountability programs in Florida, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and San Antonio. He has also recently published research on high school graduation rates, charter schools, and special education.

His research was cited four times in the Supreme Court's opinions in the landmark Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case on school vouchers. His articles have appeared in policy journals, such as The Public Interest, City Journal, and Education Next, in academic journals, such as The Georgetown Public Policy Review, Education and Urban Society, and The British Journal of Political Science, as well as in major newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Greene has been a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston. He received his B.A. in history from Tufts University in 1988 and his Ph.D. from the Government Department at Harvard University in 1995. He lives with his wife and three children in Weston, Florida.

Marcus A. Winters is a research associate at the Manhattan Institute’s Education Research Office, where he studies and writes on education policy. He has co-authored several studies on a variety of education policy issues including high-stakes testing, charter schools, and the effects of vouchers on the public school system. His op-ed articles have appeared in numerous newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He received his B.A. in political science with departmental honors from Ohio University in 2002.


The authors would like to thank the Florida Department of Education, especially the staff and administration of its K-20 Data Warehouse, for compiling and making available the data necessary for this study.

About Education Working Papers

A working paper is a common way for academic researchers to make the results of their studies available to others as early as possible. This allows other academics and the public to benefit from having the research available without unnecessary delay. Working papers are often submitted to peer-reviewed academic journals for later publication.


Center for Civic Innovation.


EWP 7 PDF (177 kb)


Retained students excel on FCAT retake Tallahassee Democrat, FL
Students to face tighter standards
The News-Press, FL, 1-20-05
Board wants to end social promotion
St. Petersburg Times, 1-19-05
Florida: A State's Approach, New York Times, 1-16-05
Failing students getting promoted
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12-20-04
Paige Issues Statement on Report on Social Promotion, 12-8-04
Yanking Schools Back From Oz by Jay P. Greene & Marcus A. Winters, New York Post, 12-8-04
Put to the test, unearned passes don't help kids by Jay P. Greene & Marcus A. Winters, Chicago Sun-Times, 12-8-04
California should end social promotion
by Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, San Diego Union Tribune, 12-9-04
Guest Column: Ending social promotion works by Jay P. Greene & Marcus A. Winters, Vero Beach Press-Journal, 12-8-04
Analysis: Ending social promotions helpful Washington Times, 12-10-04
Fla.'s tough third-grade policy a hit New York Daily News, 12-8-04
Report: Holding Back Students Helps NY Sun, 12-8-04
Retention may help students, study says, 12-8-04

This study evaluates a program that ends social promotion by linking promotion to standardized test results. In particular, it examines the initial effects of Florida’s policy requiring students to reach a minimum threshold on the state's reading exam to be promoted to the 4th grade. The study compares the year-to-year progress of the first group of students subject to the mandate, as well as the progress of similarly low-performing 3rd graders from the year earlier, before the mandatory retention policy was in place. It finds that students who were retained outperformed their counterparts who were socially promoted by the equivalent of about 4 percentile points in reading and 10 in math.














Table 1: Gains Made by Students Translated into Standard Deviation Units

Table 2: Gains Made by Students Translated into Percentile Scores

Table 3: Effect of Being Subject to Retention Policy on FCAT Reading Test

Table 4: Effect of Being Subject to Retention Policy on Stanford-9 Reading Test

Table 5: Effect of Being Subject to Retention Policy on FCAT Math Test

Table 6: Effect of Being Subject to Retention Policy on Stanford-9 Math Test

Table 7: Effect of Retention on FCAT Reading Test

Table 8: Effect of Retention on Stanford-9 Reading Test

Table 9: Effect of Retention on FCAT Math Test

Table 10: Effect of Retention on Stanford-9 Math Test


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