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Really!?! Joel Klein

NYC's Panel for Education Policy voted tonight to require 8th graders to score above level 1 on reading and math tests and pass core courses in order to be promoted. Meanwhile, last week Joel Klein wanted to invest a hypothetical billionaire's bling in a research institute - "There are two things that I would do with this money. One, I would try to set up a national institute for educational policy that does serious research. This is an industry in which there are so many myths, and that’s because there are such large gaps in our knowledge right now."

Really, Joel Klein? That's surely true in some areas, but grade retention ain't one of them. Really. It's just that a recent paper by Brian Jacob and Lars Lefgren found that the 8th grade retention initiative in Chicago increased students odds of dropping out. That's on top of a boatload of other studies finding the same. Why waste that billionaire's money if you're not even going to read the research? And why are 18,000 8th graders projected to be retained if your 3rd, 5th, and 7th grade retention initiatives were so effective? Really.

The devil is in the details with regard to grade retention policies: what's critical is what happens to kids after they have been designated to be retained, and not all policies and programs have the same elements. But eduwonkette is correct that there are no credible examples of eighth-grade retention policies that "work," in the sense of placing failing students on trajectories for academic success. That's certainly true in Chicago.
The heart of the NYC approach to retention has been the Summer Success Academy, which purports to be an intensive academic experience that prepares students to retake the high-stakes tests that serve as gatekeepers. Students are "invited" to the Summer Success Academy. The NYC Department of Education has declared victory with the 3rd and 5th grade policy, claiming that it's been implemented successfully, and that the interventions worked, in the sense that many students who completed the Summer Success Academy advanced to the Basic performance level that enabled them to be promoted. In 2005, however, one-third of the grade 5 students who were "invited" to the Summer Success Academy did not participate at all, and another one-third completed less than 10 days of the 24-day program. Only one-third of the target students completed more than 10 days of the program that was designed to enable them to be promoted to sixth grade. Chancellor Klein: most observers would not judge a program with a completion rate of less than one-third to be successful. Really. And blaming the victim is really bad social policy. Really.

And there's already a national institute for educational policy that does serious research. And reviews serious research. If Joel Klein wants to know what research is out there on grade retention, he can contact them and ask for a customized search. Really.


Well, I wouldn't count on the What Works Clearinghouse to provide a customized search on anything, let alone grade retention. The WWC has a limited number of topics that it is considering, and grade retention isn't one of them. (The same is true of the Doing What Works initiative.)

The NYC Department of Education champions the use of data to inform decisionmaking. Really. Then where are the data to support this retention policy?

Hey, Skoolboy. Your stuff rocks, by the way. You're right to point out the limits of the research reviews of WCC and DWW. However, as far as *customized* searches, I'm conveying information I received from IES consults at the ASCD conference this past weekend. Although we discussed it only briefly, *I think* regional lab reps will review all research available on a topic(via ERIC?), not just the WCC delineated topics.


You're absolutely right, of course. But you don't seem to understand what "accountability" means in this city. First of all, "accountability" applies only to unionized employees. In fact, the entire organization, under reorg Mach 3, is set up to easily pass the buck to a principal, or a school, or pretty much anyone but the folks up top.

That's why it's entire realistic for James Liebman, chief accountability officer, to literally run from concerned parents.

For those of you that love mayoral control, take heart. UFT bigshot Peter Goodman has just written on Edwize that those who wish it to sunset are "cynical."

Pardon me. "Entire" should read "entirely."

Dina: Thanks for the kind words. Historically, the regional labs lacked the capacity to be able to sift through the relevant research and make judgments about which studies were credible and which were not; and the ERIC system, which now has content experts serving as advisors, let everything that moved into the database. That was one of the rationales for the WWC: to make judgments about which studies were of sufficient technical quality to serve as a guide for policymakers and practitioners. Perhaps the labs have more capacity than they used to; that would be consistent with IES' efforts to upgrade the research infrastructure.

NYC Educator: Yes, I'm hopelessly naive. I was under the impression that political appointees ought to be accountable to the public. That doesn't mean doing everything that any citizen might demand, but it does mean listening carefully to the interests of legitimate stakeholders in the public education system, such as parents, teachers and students; taking these interests into account in making decisions; and being willing to engage in difficult conversations when there are competing interests at stake. Hey, where's that Easter bunny? I'm expecting him any day now.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • skoolboy: Dina: Thanks for the kind words. Historically, the regional labs read more
  • NYC Educator: Pardon me. "Entire" should read "entirely." read more
  • NYC Educator: Skoolboy, You're absolutely right, of course. But you don't seem read more
  • Dina: Hey, Skoolboy. Your stuff rocks, by the way. You're right read more
  • skoolboy: Well, I wouldn't count on the What Works Clearinghouse to read more




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