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

Video: RAND Congressional Briefing Series


  • Jennifer McCombs, Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation
  • Lou Mariano, Statistician, RAND Corporation

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.

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