Saturday, December 11, 2004

An Evaluation of Florida's Program to End Social Promotion

Students learned more when they were not automatically promoted

Nine states and three of the nation's biggest cities have adopted mandates intended to end "social promotion"- promoting students to the next grade level regardless of their academic proficiency. These policies require students in certain grades to reach a minimum benchmark on a standardized test in order to move on to the next grade. Florida, Texas, and seven other states, as well as the cities of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, have adopted mandatory promotion tests; these school systems encompass 30% of all U.S. public-school students. Proponents of such policies claim that students must possess basic skills in order to succeed in higher grades, while opponents argue that holding students back discourages them and only pushes them further behind.

This study uses individual-level data provided by the Florida Department of Education to evaluate the initial effects of Florida's policy requiring students to reach a minimum threshold on the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) to be promoted to the 4th grade. It examines the gains made in one year on math and reading tests by all Florida 3rd graders in the first cohort subject to the retention policy who scored below the necessary threshold, comparing them to all Florida 3rd graders in the previous year with the same low test scores, for whom the policy was not yet in force. Because some students subject to the policy obtained special exemptions and were promoted, the study also uses an instrumental regression analysis to separately measure the effects of actually being retained. The study measures gains made by students on both the high-stakes FCAT and the Stanford-9, a nationally respected standardized test that is also administered to all Florida students, but with no stakes tied to the results.

The authors intend to follow the same two cohorts of students in future studies to evaluate the effects of this new policy over time. The findings of this study, evaluating Florida's program after its first year, include:

* Low-performing students subject to the retention policy made gains in reading greater than those of similar students not subject to the policy by 1.85 percentile points on both the FCAT and the Stanford-9.

* Low-performing students subject to the retention policy made gains in math greater than those of similar students not subject to the policy by 4.76 percentile points on the FCAT and 4.43 percentile points on the Stanford-9.

* Low-performing students who were actually retained made gains in reading greater than those of similar students who were promoted by 4.10 percentile points on the FCAT and 3.45 percentile points on the Stanford-9.

* Low-performing students who were retained made gains in math greater than those of similar students who were promoted by 9.98 percentile points on the FCAT and 9.26 percentile points on the Stanford-9.


The findings of this study demonstrate that after one year, Florida’s retention policy has significantly improved the academic proficiency of low-performing third-grade students. Further research on this and other programs will add vital information to the debate over objective retention policies. For now, however, the early results are quite encouraging for the use of retention based on standardized tests to improve academic proficiency.

More here


England's position in the world education league has slipped after not enough pupils and schools sent in results.

The Government has dismissed the embarrassing results, drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, as inconclusive and not comparable to other years and other countries. It was the only OECD country to fail the criteria for the study this year and the poor results have raised suspicions that the Government was happy the see them left out.

In the second three-year study of about 250,000 students from 41 countries, English 15-year-olds scored worse in maths, science and reading than 17 other industrialised nations, including Liechtenstein and Macau, a region of China.

Maths tests for 14-year-olds at Key Stage 3 return ever-improving results year on year and the number gaining GCSE passes in English and maths is rising. The OECD study, released by the Programme for International Student Assessment, however, appears to show standards falling against an international criteria.

In 2000, the programme's study ranked England eighth in maths and reading and fourth in science out of forty countries. In the past three years students have apparently fallen to No 18 in maths, No 12 in reading and No 11 in science. David Miliband, the Schools Minister, said: "The OECD say themselves that the data cannot be compared with UK past performance or the performance of other nations as it doesn't meet their technical requirements. "We've made clear our disappointment that the UK response rate was below the technical requirements. We remain fully committed to international comparison studies and aim to learn the lessons with a view to full inclusion in Pisa 2006."

Although almost two thirds of Britain's schools returned results the OECD ruled that too few schools and pupils had responded to be eligible. The Government said yesterday that it would seek to ensure that sufficient schools participate in the next tests in 2006.

Alan Smithers, the director of education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, added to the Government's woes by pointing out that England's pupils were ranked No 18 overall on the basis of achieving 519 points in maths, but they could rank as low as No 24 if there were any bias. "If the response rate is low, it is likely that the better-performing schools and pupils would have taken part in the tests. So it is fair to assume that our results are an overestimate," he said.

Professor Smithers said that he did not believe that the latest results reflected a particular downturn in teaching; rather that the study in 2000 was out of kilter with all previous findings, particularly in maths. He added: "The Government should ask itself how it is that the results of national tests keep bounding up, whereas the performance in international tests are at best static and at worst falling."


[Yes. The source is the London "Times", despite the illiteracy above of "an international criteria"]


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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