Ending Social Promotion in Grades K-8

Insights Regarding Policy Implementation

by Julie A. Marsh, Heather Barney, Sheila Nataraj Kirby, Nailing Xia

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In 2006, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) contracted with the RAND Corporation to conduct a longitudinal evaluation of its 5th grade social promotion policy. To situate the NYC promotion policy in a broader context and to identify lessons learned that might inform the work of policymakers and administrators in NYC and elsewhere, RAND examined the design and implementation of policies to end social promotion within a sample of states and districts with policies and programs in grades K-8 that are similar to those of NYC. The following paper presents findings from reviews of state and district websites and an analysis of data from semi-structured interviews with officials from selected states and districts. Among the sample of 12 states and districts, promotion and retention policies varied along several key design dimensions (e.g., the grade levels and subject areas covered; the required criteria for promotion; appeals processes) and in the nature of interventions and support programs (e.g., criteria for identification; specifications regulating the intervention; and follow-up support provided in the next school year). Interviews with state and district officials provided further insights into the challenges, successes, and lessons to consider within six categories of policy design and implementation, including: building stakeholder support; setting promotion criteria; identifying at-risk students; providing student interventions and support; building capacity; and monitoring implementation and outcomes.

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

    Challenges and successes

  • Chapter Six


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

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