Re: CNN on Chicago "Social Promotion" Ban
- Subject: Re: CNN on Chicago "Social Promotion" Ban
- From: Julie Woestehoff <pureparents@PUREPARENTS.ORG>
- Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 12:16:53 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Agreed, Bob. I was pretty disappointed. I think part of the problem is that
the story was on "ending social promotion." It escapes me why but this is such
an attractive approach. Social promotion isn't a real policy that you "end",
nor has ir ever been researched (cf the current Substance on Gery Chico's
false anecdote about the valedictorians who couldn't read). If you pose the
problem as social promotion, then whatever is being done can be portrayed as a
response, or in the case of Chicago, a "strong" response. Of course, I did
share with the reporter all the information about the misuse of the Iowa test.
Unfortunately, we are also not getting across the truth in Chciago that the
Iowa test score does not equate with "studying" or "school work" and certainly
not with "meriting promotion". The good points that came across in the web
piece were emphasizing that the retained students are not improving and
calling the threat of retention Chicago's "dirty little secret". But the thing
that made me the craziest is that Chico's defense is that "we may not have all
the answers but at least we are trying." Why do our kids need all the answers
but our school leaders don't? Julie
Bob Schaeffer wrote:
> Here's the text of the CNN story Julie Woestehoff of PURE referred us
> to. Despite excellent quotes from Julie, the reporter pretty much buys
> into the Chicago schools rationale (and never even says that the use of
> the Iowas as the sole criterion for promotion violates the standards of
> the measurement profession):
> ENDING SOCIAL PROMOTION
> Chicago schools test a high stakes, higher standards
> promotion policy
> CNN -- June 28, 2000
> By Beth Nissen
> CNN.com Senior Correspondent
> CHICAGO (CNN) -- It is a bright, hot day -- perfect for bike riding,
> skateboarding and summer play. But inside a middle school classroom on
> Chicago's south side, a dozen third graders are hard at work, sounding
> out vocabulary words: "knelt," "windowpane," "pressed."
> Down the hall, a small group of sixth graders stares intently at a
> chalkboard full of numbers. "If we're looking at the number 457.23,
> which is the digit in the hundreds?" asks their teacher.
> Across the city this summer, 25,000 Chicago public schoolchildren
> are in classrooms like these, working to improve their skills and their
> test scores in reading and math. Every one of them can tell you what is
> at stake.
> "I want to go to my right grade. I don't want to stay in sixth,"
> said 12-year-old Natasha Ware, taking a break from a decimal
> multiplication exercise. "I don't want to be no failure all my life and
> stuff like that."
> Just four years ago in Chicago, even students with pronounced
> problems in reading and math would have been unlikely to repeat a grade.
> But the Chicago public school system, the nation's third largest with
> 431,000 students, is at the forefront of a growing national trend: It
> has ended "social promotion" -- the practice of routinely passing
> low-performing children on to the next grade with their classmates -- as
> have school systems in at least 14 other states.
> Diplomas had lost credibility
> "Graduating based on the fact that you showed up and got a minimum
> grade -- that is the horror story of social promotion," said Gery Chico,
> president of the Chicago School Board.
> "Children were promoted without being prepared. Employers would tell
> us that they would have to look at 25 to 50 of our public school
> graduates to find someone to handle reception duties, that our graduates
> couldn't fill out simple job applications.
> "We wanted our diploma to mean something again," Chico said. "We
> weren't going to accept any longer that students would move from grade
> to grade to grade, without showing us that they had performed, had
> merited that promotion."
> The way Chicago students show that they merit promotion is by their
> scores on a battery of standardized examinations -- the Iowa Tests of
> Basic Skills -- given each May to all third, sixth and eighth graders.
> Those students who do not achieve a minimum score are sent to summer
> school, six weeks of concentrated instruction in reading and math.
> At the end of the summer the students will take the Iowa test
> battery again. Those who make the minimum score on the second try will
> go on to the next grade. Those who do not will be "retained" -- it used
> to be called "held back" -- and repeat the same grade as the previous
> "We retain only as a last recourse," Chico said. "We try to give
> kids every chance to raise their scores, and merit advancement."
> Summer school, taught in small classes by the school district's best
> teachers, helps many kids do just that. In 1999 just over half of the
> 25,000 students who failed the test in May, passed it on second try in
> August and advanced to the next grade.
> That left 11,000 who did not pass and were retained. One of them was
> Victoria, a 12-year-old who said she was crushed when told she had to
> repeat sixth grade.
> "I was mad and upset and depressed that I had failed, because I did
> the best that I could," she said, asking that her last name not be used.
> She said she feels discouraged and hopeless about school now. As her
> spirits have sunk, so have her grades, a common experience among
> students who have been retained.
> 'Two wrongs don't make a right'
> "They're really in a kind of spiral of failure that many are not
> coming out of," said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents
> United for Responsible Education, a Chicago parent group. "They don't
> believe in themselves as learners. They feel like they're failures."
> "My feeling is that two wrongs don't make a right," Woestehoff said.
> "Social promotion isn't right, but retention isn't right either."
> Woestehoff's group is protesting the tougher Chicago promotion
> policy, organizing community marches, holding press conferences, filing
> complaints with the U.S. Department of Education. The group's key
> objection: too much emphasis is placed on the Iowa test battery, and the
> consequences of failing it are too harsh.
> "That test makes much more difference in what happens to the child
> than all the work that the child has done during the course of the
> year," said Woestehoff. "Children really need to have multiple
> opportunities to show what they know and what they're able to do. There
> are many children that are good students, very able students, who just
> don't perform well on this particular test."
> Jason Braham, 14, failed to score the minimum on the eighth grade
> Iowa tests in May, despite earning As and Bs throughout the school year.
> "He can do eighth grade math; he can do eighth grade reading," said
> Jason's mother, Tonja Harris. "Unfortunately Jason is just one of those
> children who do not test well."
> Jason is not alone: More than half of the children in his eighth
> grade class failed, too. Citywide, one out of three eighth graders
> missed the cutoff. They have a second chance at the battery of tests at
> the end of summer school, a second chance at promotion.
> Nevertheless, Jason was devastated by the news. "I started crying,"
> he admits. "It's been very hard, not graduating and not going on to high
> His mom tried to make him feel better by giving him an eighth grade
> graduation party anyway, with presents and a cake. It did not help much.
> "This was a bombshell dropped on a 14-year-old kid," she said.
> Jason is trying to think positively and prepare as best he can for
> the August re-test. He goes to extra help sessions on Saturdays; he goes
> over his math and reading workbooks every night, always filling out the
> Extra Practice pages.
> "Before the test we're just gonna pray," said his mother. Pray, she
> said, that Jason is not one of those retained.
> 'Retention with care'
> Since the new promotion policy was put in place four years ago, tens
> of thousands of children have been retained: about 10 percent of all
> eighth graders, about 12 percent of all sixth graders, and almost 20
> percent -- 1 out of every 5 -- third graders.
> "When we retain a child, it's retention with care," said Chico, the
> school board president. "We want that child to do better."
> Retained children are offered an impressive selection of
> after-school programs, tutoring help and special services, including eye
> examinations, which last year revealed that 1 out of every 3 retained
> students needed glasses. (If parents could not afford eyeglasses, the
> school system paid for them.)
> "We're not here to harm you. We're here to figure out what the
> problems are that you may have, and address them," Chico said.
> It works -- for some. Last year, about one-third of the retained
> children showed such progress at mid-year that they were promoted to
> their next grade, with extra help to catch up on material they missed in
> the first semester.
> But most retained students showed no academic or test score
> improvement after repeating a grade. Some had even poorer grades and
> lower test scores, according to an ongoing independent study of the
> Chicago promotion policy conducted by the Consortium on Chicago School
> "We know that retained kids aren't doing very well," said Melissa
> Roderick, a Consortium reseacher from the University of Chicago. "We
> know from past research that retention doesn't solve the students'
> learning problems. What we find is these kids are not doing any better
> -- and some do a little worse -- than previously socially promoted
> Attendance highest in decade
> Chicago school leaders are concerned about the research findings,
> but they are resolved to stay on course. "We have not figured out all
> the answers for how to help these children, but the important point is,
> we are trying," Chico said.
> He points out that the policy is showing success by other measures.
> Since the tougher promotion policy was put into effect in 1996, there
> has been a small decrease in the percentage of students retained, a
> modest but promising increase in test scores, and a noticeable jump in
> "School attendance is the highest it's been in about a decade,"
> Chico said.
> That, say school administrators and teachers, is no accident:
> Children, and their parents, now take school more seriously. It is the
> dirty little secret of the Chicago promotion policy: Retention may not
> work -- but the threat of retention does.
> Irene Santos has taught third grade for a decade and has noticed the
> change in her students. "They come to third grade knowing they have to
> take 'The Test' to pass," she said. "They pay more attention in class.
> They pay more attention to their work. They come to school more often.
> They don't want to be retained."
> "We've got a whole school system of kids working like crazy so they
> don't get retained!" said Roderick, the University of Chicago
> researcher. "It works as a motivator for kids."
> Maurice Ware, 12, is newly motivated: He said the threat of
> repeating sixth grade has reformed him. Now in summer school, he is
> resolved to pass the Iowa test battery when he re-takes it in August --
> and he is resolved to behave better and do better in school next year.
> "I'm not going to be playing around, acting the fool, and stuff. I'm
> not going to be doing that no more," he said. "To all the teachers I
> have disrespected, I'm sorry and stuff. I'm going to go to my right
> grade. I want to graduate and have a good life."
> Teachers say a more determined, focused set of students, more of
> whom are now able to do grade-level work, lets the class cover more
> academic ground.
> "Absolutely, you can teach more," said Santos. "Every year, it gets
> High stakes, long-term rewards
> Chicago teachers strongly support the new promotion policy,
> according to a survey conducted by the Consortium researchers last year.
> The majority of teachers surveyed believe the policy benefits children
> in the long-run. Eighty percent believe promoting children who do not
> have grade-level skills is worse than holding them back.
> That belief is shared by a growing number of parents, who are now
> much more involved in their children's schooling because of the
> promotion policy, according to teachers and school leaders. "The
> parents, they want their kids to pass, but mostly they want their kids
> to learn," said Santos.
> Cassandra Eubanks took her son Lloyd to summer school last week with
> hope that he will be promoted to the fourth grade in August, and
> acceptance if he is not. "Lloyd is a slow learner," she said. "If he
> repeats third grade, it's just making him a better reader. He won't be
> in fourth grade, still not knowing how to read."
> Chicago school leaders are now concentrating on identifying slow
> learners, especially slow readers, as soon as possible.
> "The longer you wait, the more difficult it is," Chico said. "Why
> should we wait 'til third grade? If a child has a particular problem in
> kindergarten, we want to know about it and start working on it."
> Earlier intervention will only add to the already high costs of
> Chicago's promotion policy, which now run up to $60 million a year,
> mostly to pay extra teachers in after-school programs and summer school,
> and to keep schools open year-round.
> "It costs to do this right," Chico said. That is what he has told
> public school leaders in Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New
> Orleans when they have called for advice on ending social promotion in
> their own school systems.
> "You can't just adopt a mantra of 'no social promotion,'" Chico
> said. "You have to be willing to pay for the extra programs, the
> additional teacher salaries, the air conditioning bills."
> Schools also have to be willing to set higher standards -- with high
> stakes for students. Chico admits it is a risk to make children repeat a
> grade, but he insists it is a greater risk to let them pass through
> school without learning all they can.
> "No stakes are higher than for a 31-year-old who can't make change
> and [can't] read a newspaper," he said.
> "We have students for 12 years in school, but this really is about
> more than what they do in 12 years," he said. "This policy is about
> their next 60 years. It's about the kind of lives they're going to have:
> Are they going to be working 16 levels below their potential, or will
> they be able to fully contribute? It's really about the kind of future
> the country is going to have. Those are the real high stakes."
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