In an interview with the Washington Post about his education agenda, Obama cited a controversial Chicago policy as an example of how his administration would raise standards.
In the 1990s, Chicago Public Schools stopped promoting students to the next grade — or graduating them from high school — just because they were a certain age. Obama said it is now “obvious” that so-called social promotion is a “disservice to students” and their parents.
(You might recall that high-level Oakland school administrators have taken the opposite tack, as seen in the student retention memo that I posted the other month.)
Before people jump on the president’s bandwagon on this issue, they might want to check out a series of reports on the Chicago policy (which included a testing “gate” in the eighth grade) by the Corsortium on Chicago School Research. The researchers, who tracked students over time, don’t leave the reader with such a clear sense of the policy’s merits.
One of the reports, published in 2004, says:
While overall dropout rates decreased with the promotion gate, the gate had adverse effects on the most vulnerable students, and, at best, only modest beneficial effects on other students’ likelihood of completing high school. This is not strong support for the policy.
What are the solutions here? Is Obama making the fix sound too easy?