Study: Retention works in Florida

Flunking works in Florida, concludes Marcus Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. To pass from third to fourth grade, students must pass a test. Those who are held back “eceive a rigorous remediation regime aimed at improving their long-term performance.”

By studying the long-term performance of children who just barely passed the test, as well as those who were just barely left behind, it was possible to compare two essentially identical populations: one set of students who moved forward despite only borderline understanding of the material; and another set who stayed behind a year and received tutoring, mentoring, and other remedial interventions.

On average, the students who were remediated did better academically, in both the short and long term, than those who were promoted. Tellingly, the benefits of the remediation were still apparent and substantial through the seventh grade (which is as far as the data can be tracked at this point).

Previous research has found “strong negative consequences” for retention, Winters concedes. He thinks prior studies have used flawed methods.

I’d like to know more about what Florida does for kids who are held back.

I’m tutoring a first grader who’s having a lot of trouble with reading. The teacher thinks she should repeat the grade — she’s one the younger kids — but school policy forbids it because English is the girl’s second language.

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