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Ending Social Promotion: Dropout Rates in Chicago after Implementation of the Eighth-Grade Promotion Gate

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Publication Date: March 2004

Publisher(s): Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago

Author(s): Elaine Allensworth


Special Collection: The Joyce Foundation

Topic: Education (Statistics, research, and research methods and financing)
Education (Education policy and planning)
Education (Education)
Education (Schools)

Keywords: early education; teacher retention; low-performance

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


In the second of its two reports on the effects of ending the policy of social promotion, the Consortium on Chicago School Research finds that low-achieving students typically start school substantially behind their classmates and fall further behind before third grade. Neither promotion nor retention closed that gap, so the Consortium concludes that schools need to provide early interventions before third grade and give greater support to teachers attempting to manage the needs of those low-performing students. But the most affected teachers and schools often have the fewest resources to handle the needs of those students.

Retained students often did not meet the standards for promotion even after their second consecutive year in a grade and nearly one-fifth of all retained third and sixth graders were placed in special education within two years of the retention decision. Students who were held back in third grade did not benefit from being held back, compared with low-achieving students who were promoted to fourth grade, the study found.

Although overall dropout rates in the city stayed about the same, dropout rates increased for students who were retained in eighth grade, and retained students who were already old for eighth grade were significantly more likely to drop out when they turned 16.