Profligate Promotion

The conventional wisdom these days seems to be that both social promotion and retention in grade are ineffective. For example:

Studies indicate that retention negatively impacts students’ behavior, attitude, and attendance, but it is still practiced in schools around the country. Social promotion undermines students’ futures when they fail to develop critical study and job-related skills; however, it too is still practiced in many schools throughout the United States. These practices are ruining public education as we know it, and unless we innovate and find alternative strategies to replace them, the US. K-12 education system will continue to underperform.

BTW: That article says that both social promotion and retention in grade “are ruining public education.” A closer view might suggest that the prerequisite failure to learn is the problem, not the dilemma of retention v. promotion.

In any case, the data tell us that Richmond has elected for social promotion.

Table 7 in the Superintendent’s Annual Report gives the number of students repeating the same grade as in 2018. The 2018 Table 7 reports the 2018 Fall membership. The ratio gives the percentage of students held back. The SOL database offers the percentage of students failing the tests in each subject in each grade. With those data in hand, it is straightforward to produce a graph:


Changing math failure rates for reading gives a similar picture.


The other subjects are not tested in all grades 3-12. In that data desert, the 6th grade failure rate in writing probably says something about the fifth grade education in that subject.