Retention works

Florida’s program to end social promotion is working for third graders, at least in the short run, write Jay P. Greene and Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute.

Our first analysis finds that low-performing students subject to the program made modest improvements in reading and substantial improvements in math compared with those made by low-performing students in the previous year’s cohort who were not subject to the program because it had not yet taken effect. Our second analysis finds that the effect of actually being retained is even stronger. We find that low-performing students who were actually retained make relatively large improvements in reading and exceptional improvements in math compared with similarly low-performing students who were promoted.

The study looks only at one year of the program.

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Comments

  1. Mike in Texas says:

    Why no links to the study?

  2. Sorry, Mike. I screwed up the link.

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Joanne,

    Thank you for the link, I hope you and your daughter are making speedy recoveries from your accident.

    I’m a little confused by some of the information presented in this study. Beginning with Table 3 their data seems to suggest retention has a very negative effect on Black students and low socioeconomic students (SES). I don’t know much about the FCAT but a -38.67 and a -54.81 do not sound good. Under NCLB it is actually the sub populations like black and low SES that actually earn the school’s rating. Missing from the tables are any information regarding white students, which make up the majority of the school age population. Table 3 seems to indicate the retention policy is actually increasing the achievement gap.
    Table 4, Stanford-9 reading test scores seems to indicate a -5.9 effect for blacks and a -4.13 for low SES students.
    Table 5 shows the effects of FCAT Math test. Again there are negative numbers for blacks and low SES kids, -29.25 and -25.77.
    In fact, every table indicates a negative effect on blacks and low SES kids, there very ones NCLB, high stakes testing and these retention policies are supposed to be benefitting.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    I also found this interesting little tidbit in the author’s summary:

    the Tennessee Star Project’s widely cited study of class-size reduction found that reducing class sizes from about twenty-four students per teacher to about fifteen students per teacher led to a statistically significant increase of about 0.2 standard deviation units

    Hmmm, now even the Manhatten Institute admits reducing the number of students per classroom has positive effects.

  5. I wonder if there’s a study about how many kids meet the academic criteria for retention in the eligible vs the ineligible pool. The threat of being retained might well cause improvements on the margin.

  6. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Hmmm, now even the Manhatten Institute admits reducing the number of students per classroom has positive effects.

    Well, no.

    Just so everyone knows what you know but aren’t in any hurry to noise around, the difference between the big class and little class students was statistically significant. That means it didn’t fall within the error range of the study. Since the Manhattan Institute is your new, best friend, Mike, I’ll quote the Manhattan Institute again:

    http://tinyurl.com/3nuhl

    An evaluation of the STAR project by researchers at Princeton shows that 40% of regular-class students went on to take a college entrance exam, while 43.7% of small-class students took such exams — a modest but statistically significant improvement.

    So, for a very substantial increase in education budgets we might get a 3.7% increase in students taking college entrance exams. I can see what’s in it for the teacher’s unions but what’s in it for society?

    And in the very next paragraph, how class size reduction works in the real world:

    When class size reduction has been applied on a large scale, results have been decidedly less promising, because schools must hire many less-qualified teachers to expand the number of classes.

    Can we conclude from this that class-size reduction is the latest, greatest, guarenteed to solve all your problems, education solution – don’t waste a moment, order now! – or can we conclude that this is just a way to pump money into the moribund teacher’s unions?

  7. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen,

    When I said I was confused I didn’t mean I didn’t understand the data. I meant that for some of the subpopulations studied, and as far as NCLB is concerned they are the only populations that matter, the retention policy was actually bad for kids, not good as the title Retention Works says.

    What the article says about the STAR project is this: statistically significant increase of about 0.2 standard deviation units which was far more than found for the new retention policies. The figure quoted was in fact 0.06 standard deviations for the retention program, or nearly a third less.

    When class size reduction has been applied on a large scale, results have been decidedly less promising, because schools must hire many less-qualified teachers to expand the number of classes.

    Ahh, so here’s a reform that’s shown to work, but there aren’t enough qualified teachers to implement it. How would we get more people to become qualified teachers? What kind of incentive could we provide to young people to entice them into becoming teachers?

    Well gosh, that might cost some money so why not spend the money instead on other reforms that haven’t been proven to work, say 4 to 6 billion dollars to implement high stakes testing. Or better yet, how about a little taxpayer funded religious education? Or let’s at least make some of our Republican businessmen friends rich.

  8. You know, Mike, I hope the NEA does manage to get Congress to revisit the NCLB.

    Right now, it’s considered a done deal but in the light of the last election the breath-holding that must have accompanied voting in favor of the NCLB probably seems like a case of over-cautiousness.

    Pretty clearly, the country is ready for more accountability from the public education system, not less. More choices and options, not less. More power in the hands of parents to decide the sort of education they want their children to have, not less.

    Between the public’s diminishing faith in the public education system and the teacher’s unions diminishing ability to control the legislative process, is it really wise to try and bring up the NCLB again?

    The politicians that the teacher’s unions voted against with their dollars are not likely to be overly sympathetic to the desire to roll back accountability any more they are likely to vote to increase the number of teachers by two-thirds on the breathless promises of those same teacher’s unions that this time, this time for sure, things’ll get better.

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen,

    This will come as no surprise but I disagree with you. The supporters of NCLB have tried several tactics, the first was to attack teachers themselves. When that didn’t work they went after teachers’ unions. That didn’t fly with the public either. Now they’ve changed to attacking curriculums. Meanwhile, parents have begun to notice what the politicians are doing to their children and are beginning grassroots movements everywhere. In two years every politician who supported NCLB will be backtracking on it.

    And I’m not actually against retention, sometimes it does wonders for kids. What I’m against is some policitican making decisions on what kids are retained. I’m also against the lying that goes on in the anti public school crowd. This study does not show retention to be a sucess for the kids who really need it.

  10. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Meanwhile, parents have begun to notice what the politicians are doing to their children and are beginning grassroots movements everywhere.

    Right. And the south will rise again.

    In two years every politician who supported NCLB will be backtracking on it.

    I don’t know, Mike. Why would politicians backtrack on the NCLB? Because of your mythical “grassroots” organizations? Most politicians live, most of the time, in the real world. They tend not to be upset at the hordes of angry voters that fail to materialize.

    With regard to the NCLB, it exists precisely because parents began to notice what politicians, politicians in the pocket of the NEA, were doing to their children. It exists because a lack of accountability ceased to be an acceptable state of affairs and the defense of unaccountability impossible.

    What I’m against is some policitican making decisions on what kids are retained.

    Well then you’d better toughen up because you’re part of a system in which the rules come down from on high. If you want to change that, you’re going to have to change the system in a very fundamental way. But that’s not what you want, is it?

    You want a system in which there is no accountability except to your own, noble conscience. You want a system in which the funding doesn’t have a specific figure attached to it. It’s governed only by the word “more”. You want a system in which you have to please no one but yourself, no one ever disturbs the tranquility of your self-delusions and the only needs that are important enough to require satisfaction are your own.

  11. Mike in Texas says:

    You want a system in which there is no accountability except to your own, noble conscience.

    Actually Allen, how about a system where there is a valid measure of student progress? One where the hidden agenda behind the assessment is not to make the students learn more but to line the pockets of some Republican fatcats?

    I’m not afraid of accountability. I know I’m good at my job and my students learn. Just bring in an accountability system that is actually designed to make me even better, not one rigged to make me look like a failure.

  12. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Actually Allen, how about a system where there is a valid measure of student progress?

    OK hotshot, how do you propose to achieve that?

    You’ve already wrote that teachers ought to be the ones designing accountability measurements.

    Maybe you’re self-deluded enough to think that’ll result in an inherently fair measurement system but let me clue you in, it won’t fly. All the non-teachers in the world will respond with some expressive eye-rolling and a hearty “get the heck outa here”.

    How about politicians? No, you’ve already made it clear that politicians, specifically politicians hundreds of miles away, aren’t acceptable. And under other circumstances I’d agree with you but that pretty much exhausts our pool of accountability measurement designers.

    Quite a problem, hey Mike? The notion of teachers designing your own accountability measurement scheme doesn’t pass the “laff test” and anything done by politicians is inherently flawed – it’s the nature of politics, no point in arguing – who does that leave?

    Anyone you can think of who has as their only interest in the education system that it be as good as possible? Not someone who draws a paycheck from the education system. Not someone who sees the education system as a campaign issue. Someone who just wants the education system to be as good as is humanly possible. Anyone you can think of?

    You chew on that a while and get back to me. Let’s see how imaginative you are.

  13. Mike in Texas says:

    I don’t have to be imaginative at all Allen. I want my work supervised and evaluated by my immediate superviser, the one who sees it day in and day out. I also have no problem with part of my assessment being done by a group of parents whose children I teach. I suppose we could ask kids to do it but I’ve seen research that indicates the favorite quality in a teacher of the age children I teach is that the teacher lets them go to the bathroom when they have to use it.

    I must be in the Twilight Zone though; did you actually say there might be an instance where you’d agree with me? 😉

  14. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I don’t have to be imaginative at all Allen.

    Probably a strength working for the government. 🙂

    Hey, you give me the easy ones, I’ll knock them out of the park.

    I want my work supervised and evaluated by my immediate superviser,

    And you expect that to happen in the public education system when?

    Take a look at the organization map of your school district. Where do you show up? Right. Second from the bottom.

    You’re just a teacher which means you’re somewhat more important then the students but only just. Your boss has a boss and quite likely there’s another one up the line from there. Maybe, probably, more.

    At each step they’re further removed from the bottom of the pyramid where you and the students reside. Where education happens. The principal may spend part of the day on matters identifiably education-related but a good part of that day is consumed with organizational matters; scheduling, budgets, reports and policy matters.

    Go one step up and that admin spends less time on education matters and more on organizational matters. And so on.

    There’s no point in railing against this situation any more then there is in railing about Texan’s love affair with football. It’s the nature of people to be competitive and it’s the nature of hierarchical organizations to be inefficient and inflexible.

    If professional nirvana for you is to be “supervised and evaluated by my immediate superviser” then it isn’t going to happen if your supervisor has another supervisor and that one has another. The pyramid has to be flattened to the extent possible and that isn’t going to happen in a public education system based on a district hierarchy.

    I must be in the Twilight Zone though; did you actually say there might be an instance where you’d agree with me? 😉

    Don’t go nuts now.

    Next thing you’ll be wanting a big hug.

    You’re problem, along with being thuroughly indoctrinated about the tectonic nature of the public education system, is that you depend on it for your livelihood.

    Hard to be objective when the rent’s at issue. Much easier to see all criticism as inherently unfair and destructive and to see all precieved threats to your livelihood as vast social wrongs which threaten the fragile fabric of our nation, not to mention being a threat to the children and likely to accelerate global warming.

    I can understand that sort of self-interest and understand that it’s inevitable. I just don’t care. There’re important things that need to be achieved and self-interest is just a speed bump.

  15. Mike in Texas says:

    Take a look at the organization map of your school district. Where do you show up? Right. Second from the bottom.

    Wrong again Allen, we’re actually at the bottom of the chart.

    Next thing you’ll be wanting a big hug.

    Actually, I’d prefer not to have a hug, but I will wish you a Merry Christmas

    You’re problem, along with being thuroughly indoctrinated about the tectonic nature of the public education system, is that you depend on it for your livelihood.

    Your logic is flawed on this one Allen. Having the federal govt get involved via NCLB just creates additional layers of burearacracy, each one further removed from the people doing the actual work of education but yet making the decisions about what goes on in the classroom. I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression too many generals, not enough soldiers. NCLB just piles layer upon layer of generals, all enforcing a system that doesn’t work and isn’t designed to work; the Republicans fatcats and their buddies will make a lot more money if the system fails and they can rush in and take the money in the name of saving the children.