Congressional Briefing - October 19, 2009

Ending Social Promotion: Examining the Effects of NYC's 5th-Grade Promotion Policy

girl in library


Jennifer McCombs and Lou Mariano


Monday, October 19, 2009


1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


Room 203 SVC Capitol Visitor Center
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

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About the Program

In 2003–2004, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), which oversees the largest public school system in the country, implemented a new test-based promotion policy for 3rd-grade students and later extended it to 5th, 7th, and 8th graders. The policy emphasized early identification of children at risk of being retained in grade and provision of instructional support services to these students. RAND conducted an independent longitudinal evaluation of the 5th-grade promotion policy for NYCDOE.

The findings of that study, conducted between March 2006 and August 2009, provides

  • a comprehensive picture of how the policy was implemented and factors affecting implementation;
  • the impact of the policy on student academic and socioemotional outcomes; and
  • the links between the policy's implementation and the outcomes of at-risk students.

These findings will be of interest as many states and school districts are implementing test-based requirements for promotion at key transitional points in students' schooling careers, thus ending the practice of "social promotion"—promoting students who have failed to meet academic standards and requirements for that grade.

This work was conducted by RAND Education.

About the Speakers

Jennifer McCombs is a policy resesarcher at RAND. Her research has focused on policies aimed at improving outcomes for at-risk students including improving out-of-school-time systems, adolescent literacy, teacher education and professional development, high-poverty schools, instructional practices, and accountability measures. She has also conducted research on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and is co-principal investigator for a study of the Wallace Foundation's Out of School Learning Initiative. She holds a Ph.D. in public policy from George Washington University.

Lou Mariano is a statistician at RAND. His research in education has focused upon evaluations of the efficacy of school reform efforts, the advancement of models using longitudinal measures of student achievement to estimate individual teacher effects, and statistical applications to mental measurement. He holds a Ph.D. in statistics from Carnegie Mellon University.

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Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact the Office of Congressional Relations at or call (703) 413-1100, ext. 5395.