6
Promotion and Retention

The typical organization of American schools into grades by the ages of their students is challenged by large variations in achievement within ages and grades. The resulting tension is reduced somewhat by overlap in the curriculum from one grade to the next. It is also reduced by strategies for grouping students by observed levels of readiness or mastery: these include special education placement, academic tracking, extended kindergarten, and grade retention. The uses of tests in tracking and with students with disabilities are discussed in Chapters 5 and 8, respectively. The use of testing to support the strategies of extended kindergarten and grade retention is treated in this chapter.

Social Promotion, Retention, and Testing

Much of the current public discussion of high-stakes testing of individual students is motivated by calls for "an end to social promotion." The committee therefore began by looking for data on the actual extent of promotion and retention, on the prevalence of test use for making those decisions, and at trends and differentials in those data.

In a memorandum for the secretary of education, President Clinton (1998:1–2) wrote that he had "repeatedly challenged States and school districts to end social promotions—to require students to meet rigorous



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--> 6 Promotion and Retention The typical organization of American schools into grades by the ages of their students is challenged by large variations in achievement within ages and grades. The resulting tension is reduced somewhat by overlap in the curriculum from one grade to the next. It is also reduced by strategies for grouping students by observed levels of readiness or mastery: these include special education placement, academic tracking, extended kindergarten, and grade retention. The uses of tests in tracking and with students with disabilities are discussed in Chapters 5 and 8, respectively. The use of testing to support the strategies of extended kindergarten and grade retention is treated in this chapter. Social Promotion, Retention, and Testing Much of the current public discussion of high-stakes testing of individual students is motivated by calls for "an end to social promotion." The committee therefore began by looking for data on the actual extent of promotion and retention, on the prevalence of test use for making those decisions, and at trends and differentials in those data. In a memorandum for the secretary of education, President Clinton (1998:1–2) wrote that he had "repeatedly challenged States and school districts to end social promotions—to require students to meet rigorous

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--> academic standards at key transition points in their schooling career, and to end the practice of promoting students without regard to how much they have learned…. Students should not be promoted past the fourth grade if they cannot read independently and well, and should not enter high school without a solid foundation in math. They should get the help they need to meet the standards before moving on." The administration's proposals for educational reform strongly tie the ending of social promotion to early identification and remediation of learning problems. The president calls for smaller classes, well-prepared teachers, specific grade-by-grade standards, challenging curriculum, early identification of students who need help, after-school and summer school programs, and school accountability. He also calls for "appropriate use of tests and other indicators of academic performance in determining whether students should be promoted" (Clinton, 1998:3). The key questions are whether testing will be used appropriately in such decisions and whether early identification and remediation of learning problems will take place successfully. The president is by no means alone in advocating testing to end social promotion. Governor Bush of Texas has proposed that "3rd graders who do not pass the reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills would be required to receive help before moving to regular classrooms in the 4th grade. The same would hold true for 5th graders who failed to pass reading and math exams and 8th graders who did not pass tests in reading, math, and writing. The state would provide funding for locally developed intervention programs" (Johnston, 1998). New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew has proposed that 4th and 7th graders be held back if they fail a new state reading test at their grade level, beginning in spring 2000. Crew's proposal, however, would combine testing of students with "a comprehensive evaluation of their course work and a review of their attendance records," and the two-year delay in implementation of the tests would permit schools "to identify those students deemed most at risk and give them intensive remedial instruction" (Steinberg, 1998a). Test-based requirements for promotion are not just being proposed; they are being implemented. According to a recent report by the American Federation of Teachers (1997b), 46 states either have or are in the process of developing assessments aligned with their content standards. Seven of these states, up from four in 1996, require schools and districts to use the state standards and assessments in determining whether students

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--> should be promoted into certain grades.1 At the same time, Iowa and, until recently, California have taken strong positions against grade retention, based on research or on the reported success of alternative intervention programs (George, 1993; Iowa Department of Education, 1998). In 1996–1997 the Chicago Public Schools instituted a new program to end social promotion. Retention decisions are now based almost entirely on student performance on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) at the end of grades 3, 6, and 8. Students who fall below specific cutoff scores at each grade level are required to attend highly structured summer school programs and to take an alternative form of the test at summer's end.2 At the end of the 1996–1997 school year, 32 percent, 31 percent, and 21 percent of students failed the initial examination at grades 3, 6, and 8, respectively. Out of 91,000 students tested overall, almost 26,000 failed. After summer school, 15 percent, 13 percent, and 8 percent of students were retained at the three grade levels (Chicago Public Schools, 1998a).3 The current enthusiasm for the use of achievement tests to end social promotion raises three concerns. First, much of the public discussion and some recently implemented or proposed testing programs appear to ignore existing standards for appropriate test use. For that reason, much of this chapter is devoted to a review and exposition of the appropriate use 1   The states are Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. A report from the Council of Chief State School Officers (1998) lists five states with required testing for promotion: Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia. The committee has not attempted to reconcile this discrepancy. 2   The 1997–1998 Guidelines for Promotion in the Chicago Public Schools also list minimum report card requirements and a minimum attendance requirement, but "students who score at or above grade level on both the Reading and Mathematics sections of the ITBS are excepted from the latter requirement" (Chicago Public Schools, 1997a). This use of the ITBS appears to be in conflict with the publisher's recommendations about "inappropriate purposes" of testing: "If a retention decision is to be made, classroom assessment data gathered by the teacher over a period of months is likely to be a highly relevant and accurate basis for making such a decision. A test score can make a valuable contribution to the array of evidence that should be considered. However, a test score from an achievement battery should not be used alone in making such a significant decision" (Hoover et al., 1994). 3   Between 2 and 3 percent of students failed the initial exam at each grade level but were ultimately "waived" into the next grade.

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--> of standardized achievement testing in the context of promotion or retention decisions about individual students. Second, there is persuasive research evidence that grade retention typically has no beneficial academic or social effects on students. 4 The past failures of grade retention policies need not be repeated. But they provide a cautionary lesson: making grade retention—or the threat of retention—an effective educational policy requires consistent and sustained effort. Third, public discussion of social promotion has made little reference to current retention practices—in which a very large share of American schoolchildren are already retained in grade. In part, this is because of sporadic data collection and reporting, but far more consistent statistical data are available about the practice of grade retention than, say, about academic tracking. It is possible to describe rates, trends, and differentials in grade retention using data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, but these data have not been used fully to inform the public debate. For this reason, the committee has assembled and analyzed the available data. Our findings about grade retention are summarized here and elaborated in the appendix to Chapter 6. Trends and Differentials in Grade Retention No national or regional agencies monitor social promotion and grade retention. Occasional data on retention are available for some states and localities, but coverage is sparse, and little is known about the comparability of these data (Shepard and Smith, 1989). The committee asked every state education agency to provide summaries of recent data on grade retention, but only 22 states, plus the District of Columbia, provided data on retention at any grade level. Many states did not respond, and 13 states collect no data at all on grade retention. Among responding states, retention tends to be high in the early primary grades—although not in kindergarten—and in the early high school years, and retention rates are highly variable across states. 4   The failure of past programs is recognized in President Clinton's initiative to end social promotion: "Ending social promotions by simply holding more students back is the wrong choice. Students who are required to repeat a year are more likely to eventually drop out, and rarely catch up academically with their peers. The right way is to ensure that more students are prepared to meet challenging academic standards in the first place" (Clinton, 1998).

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--> The committee's main source of information on levels, trends, and differentials in grade retention is the Current Population Survey (CPS) of the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Using published data from the annual October School Enrollment Supplement of the CPS, it is possible to track the distribution of school enrollment by age and grade each year for groups defined by sex and race/ethnicity. These data have the advantage of comparable national coverage from year to year, but they say nothing directly about educational transitions or about the role of high-stakes testing in grade retention. We can only infer the minimum rate of grade retention by observing changes in the enrollment of children below the modal grade level for their age from one calendar year to the next. Suppose, for example, that 10 percent of 6-year-old children were enrolled below the 1st grade in October 1994. If 15 percent of those children were enrolled below the 2nd grade in October 1995, when they were 7 years old, we would infer that at least 5 percent were held back in the 1st grade between 1994 and 1995. Extended Kindergarten Attendance Over the past two decades, attendance in kindergarten has been extended to two years for many children in American schools,5 with the consequence that age at entry into graded school has gradually crept upward and become more variable. There is no single name for this phenomenon, nor are there distinct categories for the first and second years of kindergarten in Census enrollment data. As Shepard (1991) reports, the names for such extended kindergarten classrooms include "junior-first," "prefirst," "transition," and "readiness room." Fragmentary reports suggest that, in some places, kindergarten retention may have been as high as 50 percent in the late 1980s (Shepard, 1989, 1991). The degree to which early retention decisions originate with parents—for example, to increase their children's chances for success in athletics—rather than with teachers or other school personnel is not known. Moreover, there are no sound national estimates of the prevalence of kindergarten retention, and none of the state data in Appendix Table 6-1 indicate exceptionally high kindergarten retention rates. The Census Bureau's statistics show that, from the early 1970s to the 5   Another relevant factor is change in state or local requirements about the exact age a child must reach before entering kindergarten or first grade.

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--> late 1980s, age at entry into 1st grade gradually increased, but for the past decade there has been little change. Among 6-year-old boys, only 8 percent had not yet entered the 1st grade in 1971; in 1987 the number was 22 percent, and in 1996 it was almost that high—21 percent. Among 6-year-old girls, only 4 percent had not yet entered 1st grade in 1971; the number grew to 16 percent in 1987 and to 17 percent in 1996. Although boys are consistently more likely than girls to enter 1st grade after age 6, there are only small differences among the rates for blacks, whites, and Hispanics. One contributing factor to the rising age at entry into 1st grade has been a rising age at entry into kindergarten, which is not related to retention.6 Although it is not known how widely tests are used in assigning students to extended kindergarten, there is substantial professional criticism of the practice. According to Shepard (1991), such decisions may be based on evidence of "immaturity or academic deficiencies." Shepard adds, "Tests used to make readiness and retention decisions are not technically accurate enough to justify making special placements. … Readiness tests are either thinly disguised IQ tests (called developmental screening measures) or academic skills tests…. Both types of tests tend to identify disproportionate numbers of poor and minority children as unready for school" (1991:287). Other educators, however, believe that such tests may appropriately be used for placement decisions about young children. An advisory group of the National Educational Goals Panel has recommended against the use of standardized achievement measures to make decisions about young children or their schools: "Before age 8, standardized achievement measures are not sufficiently accurate to be used for high-stakes decisions about individual children and schools" (Shepard et al., 1998:31). This committee has reached a similar conclusion. At the same time, the advisory group encouraged one type of testing of young children: "Beginning at age 5, it is possible to use direct measures, including measures of children's learning, as part of a comprehensive early childhood system to monitor trends. Matrix sampling procedures should be used to ensure technical accuracy and at the same time protect against the misuse of data to make decisions about individual children" (Shepard 6   National statistics do not indicate exactly how much extended kindergarten may have contributed to the rise in age at entry into graded school because they do not provide direct information about transitions between grade levels (or retention in grade) from year to year.

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--> et al., 1998:27).7 With young children, it is especially important to distinguish between uses of tests to monitor the progress of large groups and to make decisions about the future of individual students. Research on kindergarten retention suggests that it carries no academic or social benefits for students. Shepard's (1991:287) review of 16 controlled studies found "no difference academically between unready children who spent an extra year before first grade and at-risk controls who went directly on to first grade." She did, however, find evidence that most children were traumatized by being held back (Shepard, 1989, 1991; Shepard and Smith, 1988, 1989). Shepard further reports that "matched schools that do not practice kindergarten retention have just as high average achievement as those that do but tend to provide more individualized instruction within normal grade placements" (Shepard, 1991:287). In some cases, even with special treatment for retained students, they were no better off than similar students who had been promoted and given no exceptional treatment. Leinhardt (1980) compared at-risk children in a transition room who received individualized instruction in reading with a group of at-risk children who had been promoted and received no individualized instruction. The two groups performed comparably at the end of first grade, but both performed worse than a second comparison group that had been promoted and given individualized reading instruction. Retention in the Primary and Secondary Grades "Age-grade retardation" is a term that refers to enrollment below the modal grade level for a child's age—and no broader meaning is either intended or implied. For example, consider children who were 6 to 8 years old in 1987—the most recent birth cohort whose history can be traced all the way from ages 6 to 8 up through ages 15 to 17. At ages 6 to 8, 21 percent were enrolled below the modal grade for their age; some of this below-grade enrollment reflects differentials in age at school entry, but some represents early grade retention. By 1990, when this cohort reached ages 9 to 11, age-grade retardation grew to 28 percent, and it was 31 percent in 1993, when the cohort reached ages 12 to 14. By 1996, 7   In matrix sampling, each child takes part of a test, and performance levels are estimated statistically for groups of students.

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--> when the cohort reached ages 15 to 17, the percentage who were either below the modal grade level (or had left school) was 36 percent. Almost all of the growth in retardation after ages 12 to 14, however, was due to school dropout, rather than grade retention among the enrolled. In most birth cohorts, age-grade retardation occurs mainly between ages 6 to 8 and 9 to 11 or between ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 17. Age-grade retardation increased in every cohort that reached ages 6 to 8 from the early 1970s through the mid- to late 1980s. It increased at ages 15 to 17 for cohorts that reached ages 6 to 8 after the mid-1970s, despite a slow decline in its dropout component throughout the period. That is, grade retention increased while dropping out decreased. Among cohorts entering school after 1970, the proportion enrolled below the modal grade level was never less than 10 percent at ages 6 to 8, and it exceeded 20 percent for cohorts of the late 1980s. Age-grade retardation has declined slightly for cohorts that reached ages 6 to 8 after the mid-1980s, but rates have not moved back to the levels of the early 1970s. Overall, a large number of children are held back during elementary school. Among cohorts who reached ages 6 to 8 in the 1980s and early 1990s, age-grade retardation reached 25 to 30 percent by ages 9 to 11. Retention After School Entry Age-grade retardation cumulates rapidly after age 6. For example, among children who were 6 years old in 1987, enrollment below the modal grade increased by almost 5 percentage points between ages 6 and 7 and by 5 percentage points more between ages 7 and 9. The trend appears to be a decline in retention between ages 6 and 7 after the early 1980s. That is, there appears to have been a shift in elementary school grade retardation downward in age from the transition between ages 6 and 7 to somewhere between ages 4 and 6. How much retention is there after ages 6 to 8? And does the recent growth in grade retardation by ages 6 to 8 account for its observed growth at older ages? Age-grade retardation grows substantially after ages 6 to 8 as a result of retention in grade. For example, among children who reached ages 6 to 8 between 1972 and 1985, almost 20 percent more were below the modal grade for their age by the time they were 15 to 17 years old. Among children who reached ages 6 to 8 between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, age-grade retardation grew by about 10 percentage points by ages 9 to 11, and it grew by close to 5 percentage points more by

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--> ages 12 to 14. Relative to ages 6 to 8, age-grade retardation at ages 9 to 11 and at ages 12 to 14 increased for cohorts who were 6 to 8 years old in the early 1970s; it was stable from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s; and it has declined since then. However, the gap between retention at ages 15 to 17 and that at ages 6 to 8 has been relatively stable—close to 20 percentage points—with the possible exception of a very recent downward turn. Thus, the rise in age at entry into 1st grade—which is partly due to kindergarten retention—accounts for much of the overall increase in age-grade retardation among teenagers. In summary, grade retention is pervasive in American schools. Ending social promotion probably means retaining even larger numbers of children. Given the evidence that retention is typically not educationally beneficial—leading to lower achievement and higher dropout—the implications of such a policy are cause for concern. Social Differences in Retention Boys are initially more likely than girls to be placed below the typical grade for their age, and they fall farther behind girls as they move through school. Overall, the sex differential gradually increases with age from 5 percentage points at ages 6 to 8 to 10 percentage points at ages 15 to 17. Differences in age-grade retardation by race and ethnicity are even more striking than the gender differential. Rates of age-grade retardation are very similar among whites, blacks, and Hispanics at ages 6 to 8. But by ages 9 to 11, 5 to 10 percent more blacks and Hispanics than whites are enrolled below the modal grade level. The differentials continue to grow with age, and, at ages 15 to 17, rates of age-grade retardation range from 40 to 50 percent among blacks and Hispanics, and they have gradually drifted up from 25 percent to 35 percent among whites. Gender and race/ethnic differentials in recent years result mainly from retention, not differences in age at school entry. By age 9, there are sharp social differentials in age-grade retardation favoring whites and girls relative to blacks or Hispanics and boys. By ages 15 to 17, close to 50 percent of black males have fallen behind—30 percentage points more than at ages 6 to 8—but age-grade retardation has never exceeded 30 percent among 15- to 17-year-old white girls.

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--> Psychometrics of Certification This section addresses the underlying rationale for using tests in promotion decisions and then describes the evidence required to validate such use. Logic of Certification Decisions Promotion can be thought of in two ways: First, as recognition for mastering the material taught at a given grade level. In this case, a test used to determine whether a student should be promoted would certify that mastery. Second, promotion can also be thought of as a prediction that the student would profit more by studying the material offered in the next grade than by studying again the material in the current grade. In this case, the test is a placement device. At present, most school districts and states having promotion policies use tests as a means of assessing mastery (American Federation of Teachers, 1997a). Furthermore, retention in grade is the most common consequence for students who are found to lack this mastery (Shepard, 1991). Validating a particular test use includes making explicit the assumptions or claims that underpin that use (Kane, 1992; Shepard, 1991, 1997). On one hand, the most critical assumption in the case of a promotion test certifying mastery is that it is a valid measure of the important content, skills, and other attributes covered by the curriculum of that grade. If, on the other hand, the test is used as a placement device, the most critical assumption is that the assigned grade (or intervention, such as summer school) will benefit the student more than the alternative placement. In either case, the scores should be shown to be technically sound, and the cutoff score should be a reasonably accurate indication of mastery of the skills in question. As explained in Chapter 4, not every underlying assumption must be documented empirically, but the assembled evidence should be sufficient to make a credible case that the use of the test for this purpose is appropriate—that is, both valid and fair. Validation of Test Use Tests used for promotion decisions should adhere, as appropriate, to professional standards for placement, and more generally, to professional standards for certifying knowledge and skill (American Educational Research

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--> Association et al., 1985, 1998; Joint Committee on Testing Practices, 1988). These psychometric standards have two central principles: (1)   A test score, like any other source of information about a student, is subject to error. Therefore, high-stakes decisions like promotion should not be made automatically on the basis of a single test score. They should also take into account other sources of information about the student's skills, such as grades, recommendations, and extenuating circumstances. This is especially true with young children (Shepard and Smith, 1987; Darling-Hammond and Falk, 1995). According to a recent survey, most districts report that they base promotion decisions in elementary school on grades (48 percent), standardized tests (39 percent), developmental factors (46 percent), attendance (31 percent), and recommendations (48 percent). The significance of these factors varies with grade level. It appears that achievement tests are more often used for promotion decisions in the elementary grades than in secondary school: at the high school level, they are used by only 26 percent of districts (American Federation of Teachers, 1997a:12). (2)   Assessing students in more than one subject will improve the likelihood of making valid and fair promotion decisions.8 Content Coverage The choice of construct used for making promotion decisions will not only determine, to a large extent, the content and scoring criteria, but it will also potentially disadvantage some students. Depending on whether the construct to be measured is "readiness for the next grade level" or "mastery of the material taught at the current grade level," the content and thought processes to be assessed may be quite different. The first construct might be adequately represented by a reading test if readiness for the next grade level is determined solely by a student's ability to read the material presented at that level. With the second construct, however, the number of subjects to be assessed is expanded, along with the type of evidence needed to validate the test use. In the case of a promotion test being used to certify mastery, it is 8   For example, in 1997 the Florida legislature set forth several new requirements supporting higher student standards. These include a requirement that student progression from one grade to the next be determined by proficiency in three areas: reading, writing, and mathematics (National Coalition of Advocates for Students, 1998).

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--> Figure 6-4 Differences in age-grade retardation between age 6 and ages 7 to 9 by year when cohort was age 6. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-20. NOTE: Entries are 3-year moving averages. percentage enrolled below the modal grade level was never less than 10 percent at ages 6 to 8, and it exceeded 20 percent for cohorts of the late 1980s. The trend lines suggest that age-grade retardation has declined slightly for cohorts entering school after the mid-1980s, but rates have not moved back to the levels of the early 1970s. Overall, a large share of each birth cohort now experiences grade retention during elementary school. Among children ages 6 to 8 from 1982 to 1992, age-grade retardation has reached 25 to 30 percent by ages 9 to 11. Retention After School Entry Enrollment below the 1st grade at age 6 is a convenient baseline against which to assess the effects of later grade retention. The comparisons of age-grade retardation at ages 7 to 9 with that at age 6 are shown in Figure 6-4. There are two main patterns in the series. First, grade retention continues through the elementary years at each successive age. Retention cumulates rapidly after age 6. For example, among children who were 6 years old in 1987, enrollment below the modal grade increased by almost 5 percentage points between ages 6 and 7 and by 5 more percentage points between ages 7 and 9. Second, there appears to have been a decline in retention between ages 6 and 7 after the early 1980s. That is, comparing Figure 6-1 with Figure 6-4, we can infer a shift in elementary school age-grade retardation downward in age from the transition between ages 6 and 7 to somewhere between ages 4 and 6.

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--> Figure 6-5 Differences in age-grade retardation between ages 6 to 8 and ages 9 to 17 by year when cohort was ages 6 to 8. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, Table A-3, Persons 6 to 17. NOTES: Dropouts are included in the series at ages 15 to 17. Entries are 3-year moving averages. How much grade retention is there after ages 6 to 8? And does the recent growth in age-grade retardation by ages 6 to 8 account for its observed growth at older ages? Figure 6-5 shows changes in age-grade retardation between ages 6 to 8 and each of the three older age groups. 29 Age-grade retardation grows substantially after ages 6 to 8 as a result of retention in grade. For example, among children who reached ages 6 to 8 between 1972 and 1985, almost 20 percent more were below the modal grade for their age by the time they were 15 to 17 years old. Among children who reached ages 6 to 8 between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, age-grade retardation grew by about 10 percentage points by ages 9 to 11, and it grew by close to 5 percentage points more by ages 12 to 14. Relative to ages 6 to 8, age-grade retardation at ages 9 to 11 and ages 12 to 14 increased for cohorts who were 6 to 8 years old in the early 1970s; it was stable from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and it has declined since then. However, the gap between retention at ages 15 to 17 and that at ages 6 to 8 has been relatively stable—close to 20 percentage points—with the possible exception of a very recent downward turn. Thus, the rise in age at entry into 1st grade—which is partly due to kindergarten retention—accounts for much of the overall increase in age-grade retardation among teenagers. 29   Again, early school dropout (at ages 15 to 17) is counted as age-grade retardation.

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--> In summary, grade retention is pervasive in American schools. It is important to consider the implications of ending social promotion when ages at school entry are increasing, and a large share of each new cohort of youth already experiences grade retention after the early years of schooling. To be sure, the temporal location of age-grade retardation appears to have changed over time. Cumulative rates of age-grade retardation have increased for cohorts entering school since the early 1970s, but this has occurred through a combination of later entry into 1st grade—possibly involving retention in nursery school or kindergarten—reduced retention between ages 6 and 7, and variable patterns of retention in the preadolescent and adolescent years. Social Differences in Retention Not only are there similarities in the pattern of age-grade retardation among major population groups—boys and girls and majority and minority groups—but there are also substantial differences in rates of age-grade retardation among them, many of which develop well after school entry. Figure 6-6 shows differences in grade-retardation between boys and girls at ages 6 to 8 and ages 15 to 17. Overall, the sex differential gradually increases with age, from 5 percentage points at ages 6 to 8 to 10 percentage Figure 6-6 Percentage enrolled below modal grade at ages 6 to 8 and at ages 15 to 17 by sex and year cohort reached ages 6 to 8. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, Table A-3, Persons 6 to 8 and 15 to 17.

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--> Figure 6-7 Percentage enrolled below modal grade at ages 6 to 8 by race/ethnicity and year. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, Table A-3, Persons 6 to 8. points at ages 15 to 17. That is, boys are initially more likely than girls to be placed below the modal grade for their age, and they fall further behind girls as they pass through childhood and adolescence. The differentiation of age-grade relationships by race and ethnicity is even more striking than that by gender. Figures 6-7 to 6-10 show trends in the development of age-grade retardation by race/ethnicity in each of the four age groups: 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14, and 15 to 17. Here, unlike the case of gender differentiation, the rates of age-grade retardation are very similar among whites, blacks, and Hispanics at ages 6 to 8. However, by ages 9 to 11, the percentages enrolled below modal grade levels are typically 5 to 10 percentage points higher among blacks or Hispanics than among whites. The differentials continue to grow with age, and at ages 15 to 17, rates of grade retardation range from 40 to 50 percent among blacks and Hispanics, and they have gradually drifted up from 25 percent to 35 percent among whites. By ages 15 to 17, there is a differential between Hispanics and blacks favoring the latter, and this appears to follow from high rates of early school dropout among Hispanics. Figure 6-11 shows the rates of school dropout among whites, blacks, and Hispanics ages 15 to 17. There is almost no difference in the dropout rates between whites and blacks,30 but Hispanics are much more likely to leave 30   Dropout by ages 15 to 17 does not indicate ultimate rates of failure to complete high school because large numbers of youth complete regular schooling through age 19 or, alternatively, pass the GED exam through their late 20s (Hauser, 1997).

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--> Figure 6-8 Percentage enrolled below modal grade at ages 9 to 11 by year cohort reached ages 6 to 8 by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, Table A-3, Persons 9 to 11. Figure 6-9 Percentage enrolled below modal grade at ages 12 to 14 by year cohort reached ages 6 to 8 by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, Table A-3, Persons 12 to 14. school at an early age. Thus, early high school dropout contributes very little to the observed difference in age-grade retardation between blacks and whites, which is mainly due to retention in grade. Early dropout does account in part for the difference in age-grade retardation between Hispanics and whites or blacks. In recent years, gender and race/ethnic differentials in age-grade retardation, even at young ages, are a consequence of school experience and not primarily of differentials in age at school entry. Social differentials in age-grade relationships are vague at school entry, but a hierarchy

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--> Figure 6-10 Percentage enrolled below modal grade or dropping out by ages 15 to 17 by year cohort reached ages 6 to 8 by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, Table A-3, Persons 15 to 17. Figure 6-11 Percentage dropping out by ages 15 to 17 by year cohort reached ages 6 to 8 by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, Table A-3, Persons 6 to 17. is clearly established by age 9, and it persists and grows through the end of, secondary schooling. This growth can only be explained by grade retention. By age 9, there are sharp social differentials in age-grade retardation, favoring whites and girls relative to blacks or Hispanics and boys. By ages 15 to 17, close to 50 percent of black males have fallen behind in school—30 percentage points more than at ages 6 to 8—but age-grade retardation has never exceeded 30 percent among white girls of the same age. If these rates and differentials in age-grade retardation are characteristic

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--> of a schooling regime in which social promotion is perceived to be the norm, it is important to consider what we might observe when that norm has been eliminated. References Alexander, K.L., D.R. Entwisle, and S.L. Dauber 1994 On the Success of Failure: A Reassessment of the Effects of Retention in the Primary Grades. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on Measurement in Education 1985 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 1998 Draft Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. American Federation of Teachers 1997a Passing on Failure: District Promotion Policies and Practices. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers. 1997b Making Standard Matter 1997: An Annual Fifty-State Report on Efforts to Raise Academic Standards. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers. Anderson, D.K. 1994 Paths Through Secondary Education: Race/Ethnic and Gender Differences. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Berk, R. 1986 A consumer's guide to setting performance standards on criterion-referenced test. Review of Educational Research 56:137–172. Chicago Public Schools 1996a Preparing Your Elementary Students to Take Standardized Tests. Chicago: Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, Bureau of Student Assessment. 1996b Preparing Your High School Students to Take Standardized Tests. Chicago: Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, Bureau of Student Assessment. 1997a 1997–1998 Guidelines for Promotion in the Chicago Public Schools. Chicago: Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, Bureau of Student Assessment. 1997b CPS Ninth Grade Students Excel in Summer School. Press release. Chicago: Chicago Public Schools. 1998a The Summer Bridge: Helping Chicago's Public School Students Bridge the Gap. Chicago: Chicago Public Schools. 1998b CPS Test Results of Individual Schools Show Improvements. Press release. Chicago: Chicago Public Schools. Clinton, W.J. 1998 Memorandum to the Secretary of Education. Press release. Washington, DC: The White House. Council of Chief State School Officers 1998 Survey of State Student Assessment Programs. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.

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