Social promotion is less common at high-performing charter schools, writes Sarah Garland in The American Prospect.
In keeping with their focus on rigorous academics and accountability, many charter schools have adopted strict “retention” policies requiring struggling students to repeat a grade when they don’t meet expectations, sometimes even if they’re just a point shy of passing.
. . . Charter-school advocates say this allows them to help students who are far below grade level to catch up. It may also give charters an edge over regular public schools on test scores.
Students who are held back rarely catch up, according to education research. Often they repeat the classroom experience that didn’t work the first time. Charter leaders say they provide extra help to enable students to succeed.
Charter students facing retention sometimes return to district-run schools that will place them in the next grade.
Gary Miron, a Western Michigan University researcher who studies charter schools, says the retention policies of charter schools may sound good, but they “could be a mechanism to have the weaker kids go back to traditional public schools.”
But (Stanford researcher Margaret) Raymond says her studies have found that students who leave a school rather than be retained are less likely to be minorities or on free or reduced-price lunch, suggesting that it’s the more affluent parents who worry about the stigma of repeating a grade.
In my book, Our School, I write about a San Jose charter high school’s struggle to prepare students — most from low-income and working-class Mexican immigrant families — for college success. Because of social promotion in their K-8 years, Downtown College Prep students start ninth grade with fifth- or sixth-grade reading, writing and math skills, on average. They need time to learn the skills and work habits that will let them do college-prep work and go on to earn a college degree. Pushing everyone through in four years is a guarantee of failure.