NYC charters retain more students

Attrition rates are lower at New York City charter schools than at district-run public schools, according to a WNYC analysis of district data.

Citywide, 10.6 percent of charter school students transferred out in 2013-14, compared to 13 percent of traditional public school students, reports Beth Fertig and Jenny Ye.

Only one student left KIPP's Washington Heights Middle School last year, an attrition rate of less than 1 percent.

Only one student left KIPP’s Washington Heights Middle School in 2013-14, an attrition rate of less than 1 percent.

Other studies show “charters lose a smaller share of special-needs students than district schools, she writes.

KIPP’s “no excuses” schools lost students at one-quarter the rate of district schools. The Icahn network, which is more “huggy,” had one-third the attrition rate.

Success Academy, which has very high test scores, has been accused of pushing out unwanted students. The New York Times reported on a “got to go” list of difficult students kept by the principal of a Success school in Brooklyn,

Yet, “most of Success’s 18 schools in the 2013-14 school year had attrition rates that were lower than those of their local districts,” report Fertig and Ye. Only two schools were slightly higher.  Overall, the attrition rate for Success Academy schools was 57 percent of the rate at district schools.

Two stand-alone charters posted high attrition rates, WNYC found. Both have closed.

Alexander Russo wonders why the story has received little attention.

Social promotion is alive and well

Most failing students are promoted to the next grade, despite laws and policies banning social promotion, reports Molly Callister on the Hechinger Report. Retention rates hovered around 2.7 percent from 1995 to 2005 and declined to 1.5 percent in 2009, according to a new study.

California’s education code says students must repeat the grade if they fail promotion “gates” at second, third, and fourth grades and eighth grade. “But there’s a catch, which exists in nearly all state retention laws: A student can be promoted if the teacher decides retention isn’t appropriate for that child,” writes Callister.

It’s better to promote failing students with their classmates, then provide extra support, says Arzie Galvez,a  Los Angeles Unified administrator.

Support may include taking double math or English, tutoring, help from aides,  summer school or credit recovery programs.

Retention doesn’t help because “the typical situation is to simply repeat a grade and not necessarily address the reasons a kid was failing in the first place,” says Russ Rumberger, professor of education at the University of California Santa Barbara.

But Marcus Winters, a professor of education at the University of Colorado, believes the extra help should be provided while the student repeats the grade.

Winters looked at retained students in Florida after a retention law was instituted in 2003. Winters narrowed the pool of students to those within a small margin both above and below the cutoff for retention, which he said was basically the difference of one or two problems on the state standardized test.

Students below the cutoff were retained and given extra support during the following year, while students above were moved on to the next grade.

“We found that the kids who received this retention and remediation treatment in third grade, there’s big positive immediate effect in those first couple of years,” Winters said. “That effect tended to fade a little bit over time, but even by the time they were in the seventh grade there was still a pretty large — not only statistically significant but really meaningful — positive effect from receiving that treatment in third grade.”

Florida’s retention rates jumped nearly a third in the 2002-2003 school year, but retention rates have fallen back to the old level.

Alberto Cortes fell behind in math, repeated fourth grade at his Los Angeles school and continued to fail, Callister reports. Expelled from his middle school in seventh grade, he persuaded the new school to skip him into eighth grade with students his own age. He failed in high school and dropped out.

Now 16, he meets one-on-one with a teacher through an alternative education program. He’s on track to graduate in the next year and a half.

“I do want to get at least my bachelor’s and my master’s,” Cortes said. “I want to do something in the medical business. But at (the time I dropped out) I always thought that I was going to end up in jail someday.”

I hate to see kids with dreams totally unconnected to reality. If he prepared to qualify for a medical technician program at his local community college, he might have a shot at “the medical business.”

Online ed’s success gap narrows

Online enrollment is growing at community colleges, even as traditional enrollment declines, reports the Instructional Technology Council. “The retention gap” between online and traditional students  ”has narrowed dramatically” in the past nine years, according to ITC.

‘Grit’ helps teachers too

Grit isn’t just for students. Gritty teachers are more effective in high-poverty schools, concludes a new study in Teachers College Record, by Penn researchers Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Duckworth. New teachers with higher levels of “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”  (aka “grit”) were less likely to quit and more likely to be rated effective, notes Ed Week.

Raters scored 461 novice teachers’ resumes to evaluate multi-year persistence.

The highest score of 6 might go to a gritty teacher who was a “member of the cross-country team for four years and voted MVP in senior year” and was also  “founder and president for two years of the university’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.” The unnamed teacher-training organization that provided the data for the study is now using a version of this rating system as one of multiple tools to help make hiring decisions.

The study used the teacher-training group’s assessment of effectiveness, which was based on several different measures of student achievement.

Teacher retention is up in reform era

Teachers are staying in the classroom, despite education reforms some said would create rapid turnover, according to a U.S. Education Department survey.

In the past, half of teachers would leave in their first five years, write Kaitlin Pennington and Robert Hanna of the Center for American Progress. But 70 percent of teachers who started five years ago have stayed in the profession.

The Great Recession started in 2009, which may have discouraged job switching, they observe. With many experienced teachers retiring, new teachers may have expected more opportunities.
Still, the new research should “give pause” to reform critics, write Pennington and Hanna.

Some claimed that teachers would react strongly to teacher evaluations that are based in part on student test-score growth and that the stress would drive many of them out. Bob Sullo, an education consultant and author, called it a “recipe for disaster.” And education historian Diane Ravitch predicted that “many will leave teaching, discouraged by the loss of their professional autonomy.”

Over the course of President Obama’s first term, about two-thirds of teachers said that if they “could go back to college and start over again,” they would “probably” or “definitely” still become teachers.

Full-time college isn’t for everyone

Student retention has improved for “ASAP” students at New York City community colleges. The program requires students to enroll full-time and accept “intrusive” advising. But many nontraditional students can’t drop everything to go full-time.

President Obama’s college plan should include 45 million peanut-butter sandwiches a week for Pell Grant recipients, argues a community college professor. 

Retention’s up, enrollment’s down

Determined to raise retention rates, an Oregon community college mandated orientation and advising and eliminated late registration. That’s lowered enrollment by 20 percent, lowering state funding by 7 percent. However, graduation rates are likely to rise.

A “scorecard” for California community colleges will show progress and success rates for students who start in remedial classes, college-ready students, career-tech students and those in non-credit classes, such as English as a Second Language.

Ohio: Third graders must read or repeat

Ohio’s “third grade guarantee” — students who don’t read on grade level will be held back – is the subject of a PBS report.

Retention — and remediation — can help students

Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating? asks a Brookings policy brief by Harvard Professor Martin West. Probably not.

Two years after retention at the end of third grade, Florida students who just missed being promoted do better academically than slightly higher-performing classmates who went on to the next grade.

The positive impact of retention on reading achievement is as large as 0.4 standard deviations, an amount which exceeds a typical year’s worth of achievement growth for elementary school students. The impact of retention on math achievement is roughly half as big, perhaps because the remedial services provided to students before and during the retention year focus primarily on reading.

While the benefits fade out by seventh grade, “the retained students continue to perform markedly better than their promoted peers when tested at the same grade level,” West writes. “Although it is too soon to analyze the policy’s effects on students’ ultimate educational attainment and labor-market success,” he thinks “retention and remediation of struggling readers can be a useful complement to broader efforts to reduce the number of students reading below grade level.”

In an earlier post on Florida’s retention policy, I wrote that I wanted to know more about what schools do for students repeating a grade. As it turns out, Florida requires schools to do quite a bit.

First, retained students must be given the opportunity to participate in their district’s summer reading program. Schools must also develop an academic improvement plan for each retained student and assign them to a “high-performing teacher” in the retention year. Finally, retained students must receive intensive reading interventions, including ninety uninterrupted minutes daily of research-based reading instruction (a requirement that has since been extended to all students in grades K-5).

Retention doesn’t seem to help in middle school. In a Chicago study, retention helped third graders, had no effect on sixth graders and increased the likelihood that eighth graders would drop out, adds West.

Study: Social promotion hurts students

Florida students who repeated a grade in elementary school outperformed similar students who were promoted, even after five years, according to a new study in Education Finance and Policy by Jay Greene and Marcus Winters.

The benefits of ending social promotion “diminish, but they remain statistically significant and educationally substantial through middle school,” Greene writes.