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Grade retention, the practice of keeping low-achieving students at the same grade level for an additional year to provide them with extra time to catch up, is one approach to ending social promotion, the practice of promoting students regardless of whether they have mastered the grade-level content. As part of an increasing emphasis on standards and accountability, many districts now use standardized test scores as one of the main criteria for grade retention. In 2003–2004, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) implemented a new promotion policy for 3rd-grade students, which was later extended to 5th, 7th, and 8th graders. NYCDOE asked RAND to conduct an independent longitudinal evaluation to provide evidence of the program's impact on 5th graders. This report, one in a series documenting the results of the study (conducted between March 2006 and August 2009), identifies lessons learned about policy design and implementation from top-level administrators responsible for overseeing promotion and retention policies in a sample of states and districts with K–8 policies and programs that are similar to those in NYC.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    A Brief Overview of NYC's Promotion Policy

  • Chapter Three

    Sample Selection and Methodology

  • Chapter Four

    Overview of State and District Promotion and Retention Policies and Programs

  • Chapter Five

    Perceived Challenges and Promising Strategies

  • Chapter Six


  • Appendix

    Supporting Tables for Chapter Four

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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