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Retention of Students Can Work

April 12, 2012

By Marcus A. Winters

Several states that are considering ending social promotion — the practice of moving low-performing students to the next grade for socialization reasons — are on the right track. Under new measures in these states, third-graders would generally need to demonstrate reading proficiency on a standardized test to be promoted to the fourth grade. My recent study of Florida’s policy suggests that it works well for students who are held back and receive remedial training.

OUR VIEW: Flunking 3rd-graders is not the answer

The new laws, most of them patterned on Florida’s, would provide remedial services to low-performing students who are retained. But it is retention itself that is stirring controversy. A wide body of research purports to show that retention harms future academic outcomes. But much of that earlier research failed to adequately account for differences in the types of kids who are retained or promoted.

Lawmakers should consider the evaluation of Florida’s policy I did with co-author Jay Greene. We were able to make apples-to-apples comparisons by looking at students who just barely passed the test, as well as those who were just barely left behind. We found that retained students who got remedial training substantially outperformed their socially promoted peers in reading and math.

That our results were very similar for several classes of third-graders makes us confident that we’re observing a true effect in the study, a longer version of which is scheduled to be published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Opinions expressed in USA TODAY’s editorials are decided by its Editorial Board, a demographically and ideologically diverse group that is separate from USA TODAY’s news staff.

Most editorials are accompanied by an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature that allows readers to reach conclusions based on both sides of an argument rather than just the Editorial Board’s point of view.

The benefit from Florida’s policy is quite large relative to other interventions, and it lasts for several years. That distinguishes it from treatments such as Head Start, which has an initially positive effect but fades quickly and completely.

There’s more to learn about the long-term effects of Florida’s policy. Because our results strictly apply to policies identical to Florida’s, states that stray from this model will find our results less useful. Nonetheless, policymakers should be aware that a Florida-style policy has a large and sustained positive effect on student achievement.

Original Source: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/story/2012-04-11/retention-students-remedial-training/54182960/1

 

 
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