Friday, September 15, 2006

Joel Klein and Jay Greene on social promotion

I attended a meeting earlier this week in which Joel Klein spoke about why he and Mayor Bloomberg ended NYC's policy of social promotion.  He then introduced Jay Greene (author of Education Myths), who presented the results from his study of what happened in Florida when the state ended social promotion.  The study is at, and here's the summary:
This study evaluates Florida's state-wide test-based promotion policy on student achievement two years after initial retention. The authors find that retained Florida students made significant reading gains relative to the control group of socially promoted students. Students who are socially promoted, without having mastered basic skills for the grade they completed, fall farther behind over time. Conversely, retained students are able to catch up on skills they are lacking.
I'm not at all surprised by these findings, for reasons that Klein captured well in his opening remarks.  Most importantly, he highlighted the SYSTEMIC impact of ending social promotion.  No longer can the system fail to educate certain students, give up on them, assign them the least effective teachers and all of the other reprehensible things the system does, day in and day out, year in and year out, to tens of thousands of our city's most disadvantaged children -- yet suffer no consequences.   Now, with social promotion eliminated, the failure to educate these children becomes readily apparent -- to the children, their parents, politicians, the media, etc.  And now the messages are clear: 1) You must educate EVERY child, and 2) If you fail to educate any child, you have to try again!
I loved this quote from Klein:

“In the immortal words of Roberto Duran, we are saying, ‘No mas!’  We will educate students and then promote them, not the reverse”

Klein also shared some remarkable data -- I forget the exact details regarding the figures and the grade levels, but the basic message was that the % of children who were not promoted has PLUNGED, from something like 15% in the first year of the program so the low single digits today.  It's WORKING!
I've posted two slides I put together that capture these arguments and Greene's data at

 Subscribe in a reader