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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. 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. NYCDOE asked RAND to conduct an independent longitudinal evaluation of the 5th-grade promotion policy and to examine the outcomes for two cohorts of 3rd-grade students. The findings of that study, conducted between March 2006 and August 2009, provide 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. Two other publications in this series provide a review of the prevailing literature on retention and lessons learned about policy design from top-level administrators across the country.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


    Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Jennifer Sloan McCombs, and Louis T. Mariano

  • Chapter Two

    What We Know About the Effects of Grade Retention and Implementation of Promotion Policies

    Nailing Xia and Sheila Nataraj Kirby

  • Chapter Three

    Context and Conceptual Framework for Understanding New York City's Promotion Policy

    Jennifer Sloan McCombs, Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Julie A. Marsh, and Catherine DiMartino

  • Chapter Four

    Data and Methods

    Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Louis T. Mariano, and Jennifer Sloan McCombs

  • Chapter Five

    School-Provided Support for Students: Academic Intervention Services

    Jennifer Sloan McCombs, Scott Naftel, Gina Schuyler Ikemoto, Catherine DiMartino, and Daniel Gershwin

  • Chapter Six

    Implementation of the Policy: Saturday and Summer Schools

    Gina Schuyler Ikemoto, Jennifer Sloan McCombs, Catherine DiMartino, and Scott Naftel

  • Chapter Seven

    Performance of 5th Graders in New York City and Overall Performance Trends in New York State

    Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Scott Naftel, Jennifer Sloan McCombs, Daniel Gershwin, and Al Crego

  • Chapter Eight

    Measuring the Effect of Supportive Interventions on Proximal-Year Student Achievement

    Louis T. Mariano, Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Al Crego, and Claude Messan Setodji

  • Chapter Nine

    Future Outcomes of Students at Risk of Retention

    Louis T. Mariano, Sheila Nataraj Kirby, and Al Crego

  • Chapter Ten

    The Impact of New York City's Promotion Policy on Students' Socioemotional Status

    Vi-Nhuan Le, Louis T. Mariano, and Al Crego

  • Chapter Eleven

    Conclusions and Policy Implications

    Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Jennifer Sloan McCombs, and Louis T. Mariano

  • Appendix A

    Technical Appendix for Achievement Models

  • Appendix B

    Supporting Data for Chapter Five

  • Appendix C

    Supporting Data for Chapter Seven

  • Appendix D

    Supporting Data for Chapter Ten

  • Appendix E

    Data and Analyses for 3rd-Grade Cohorts

The research described in this report was prepared for the New York City Department of Education and conducted within RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation.

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