NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 11, 2009

Evidence shows that ending social promotion -- the practice of allowing students to advance a grade level without having mastered the content of their current grade -- is having a positive result on student testing, says the Heritage Foundation.

A new study released by the RAND Corporation shows how New York City seventh graders who were held back as fifth graders have made academic gains.  The study, which looks at the effectiveness of the New York City Department of Education's 2003 grade promotion policy, found:

  • Fifth-graders who were held back due to low testing scores in math and language arts tested better as seventh-graders than did their peers who also tested low but advanced to grade six anyway.
  • The gains resulting from the policy of ending social promotion for fifth-graders in 2003-04 has prompted the city to expand the policy to include grades five through eight.

Students in the Big Apple aren't the only benefactors of the new policy, says Heritage.  New York City Schools' Chancellor Joel Klein takes notice of the success Florida has also had by ending social promotion.  Klein writes about the similarities that exist between the policies Florida has implemented and those New York City is trying to implement in Education Next:

"Like Florida's schools, New York City's serve a high-needs population.  But we are not allowing demographics to define our outcomes.  Since 2002, our students have made steady progress.  Today, far more students are meeting and exceeding standards in math and reading.  We've substantially narrowed the racial and ethnic achievement gap, our students are catching up to students in the rest of the state, and our graduation rate is the highest it has been in decades."

Source: Taylor Stair, "Ending Social Promotions Leads to Gains in NYC," The Heritage Foundation, November 10, 2009,

For text: 

For RAND study: 


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