California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
Students who meet grade-level standards promote from eighth grade to ninth, sometimes with full graduation ceremonies (refer to the section on Promotions in Recommendation 5, “Relationships.”)
However, the question about what to do with students who are not ready for ninth grade is a troubling one. The current debate about how to measure the dropout rate does not alter the fact that approximately 30 percent of students who begin ninth grade do not complete high school, yet a review of the literature shows little support for grade retention. In fact, retention is one of the factors found to increase the likelihood of students dropping out.1 Grade retention also appears to affect later career success.2 “Systematic reviews and meta-analysis examining research over the past century (studies between 1911-1999) conclude that the cumulative evidence does not support the use of grade retention as an intervention for academic achievement or socio-emotional adjustment.”3
Social promotion, however, is not the solution, as it merely postpones failure for most students. Mandatory summer school is one option. Another promising alternative is the concept of a bridge program. Like Saturday school, summer school and bridge programs offer students an intensive opportunity to catch up to grade-level standards without the stigma of retention. Summer bridge programs for middle school often serve as a second chance for students who do not have the grade-level skills needed for promotion.
In 2006, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell’s P-16 Council (Subcommittee Four) made the following recommendation about eighth-grade bridge programs: “Districts shall provide research-based, state-funded bridge programs for exiting eighth graders who are below or far below basic on the California Standard Tests (CST) in English-language arts (ELA) and/or mathematics. Participation is mandatory for those students who are far below basic.”
Perris High School, Perris Union High School District
The district articulation agreement helps Perris High School staff members work with feeder middle schools to require an eighth-grade non-promote summer school for students who do not have adequate grades for high school. (Note: this is not a state requirement, although it is a P-16 Council recommendation from Subcommittee Four.) The agreement requires students to attend a five-week summer program in math and language arts. If the student passes the summer program, he or she passes to regular ninth grade. If the student fails the program, he or she attends a school-within-a-school to focus on math and language arts before becoming a fully integrated member of the high school community.
Perris DataQuest School Profile
Perris High School (Outside Source)
Intervention courses and after-school programs
Enrichment options to prepare for high school
1“High School Dropouts,” in Works in Progress: A Report on Middle and High School Improvement Programs (PDF; Outside Source). Washington, D.C: The Comprehensive School Reform Quality Center, American Institutes of Research, January 2005, 58.
2S. R. Jimerson, “On the Failure of Failure: Examining the Association Between Early Grade Retention and Education and Employment Outcomes During Late Adolescence” (Outside Source), Journal of School Psychology, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Autumn 1999) 243-272.
3Gabrielle E. Anderson, Angela D. Whipple, and Shane R. Jimerson, Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes (Outside Source). Bethesda, Md.: National Association of School Psychologists, 2002.
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California Department of Education
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Sacramento, CA 95814