City schools are doing a good job of identifying struggling students and giving them extra help so they don't need to repeat grades, according to a study released today.
The study, by the RAND Corp. think tank, says the policy gives students in the nation's largest public school system multiple chances to bring their performances up instead of just flunking them.
"The emphasis on early identification of students who are struggling academically and providing those students extra learning opportunities is a critical factor in the success of the New York City Department of Education's promotion and retention policy,'' said Jennifer McCombs, a co-author of the report.
Ending so-called social promotion, or the advancement of students regardless of their grades just to keep them with their peers, was controversial when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced it in the 2003-04 school year. Under the policy, which started with third grade and has been expanded to other grades, failing students are held back if they are unable to improve their performances with extra tutoring and summer school.
Critics charged that holding students back increases behavioral problems and puts them more at risk of dropping out.
But the study by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based RAND Corp. says New York City schools have used statewide test scores to identify students in danger of failing, offering them extra help to bring them back up to grade level.
The report says students who needed the extra services at the beginning of fifth grade scored higher on state tests in seventh grade than they would have without the help.
The researchers also found that students who were held back under the policy did not suffer negative social or emotional effects.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said the study provides "solid evidence that our students are far better off because we ended the disgraceful practice of social promotion.''