“No flunk”. “No fail”. “No grade retention”.

Sounds bad, I know. But this is no grand experiment. Scholars have been evaluating various policies since the turn of the century (the previous century, that is.).

 The evidence is in, and the reality is clear. Retaining kids has no benefit whatsoever, and actually makes them turn out worse compared to similar kids who were passed. Even under the worst of circumstances, where the failing kids aren’t targeted with interventions like one-on-one tutoring  (like the MCSs are vowing to provide) to get them caught up.

Look, I think the whole “self esteem” thing has gone way too far, too. I think it’s done a lot of damage, actually. I think kids need to become familiar with failure and learn how to push through it. I think learning how to cope with failure is an important life skill. But the research suggests that failing a grade in school early on is an unusually giant, totally devastating blow that has no real bettering effect. It’s just all bad and no good. And if the MCSs are for real about providing the failing kids with intensive help to get them up to par, this just can’t be a bad thing.

And it’s not like we’re left speculating without an evidence base to draw from here. This has been studied intensively. It has been studied from every angle, and the research is clear.

For example, here’s a meta-analysis of the research.




Holmes and Matthews’s (1984) metaanalysis

revealed statistically significant differences

favoring the promoted students in

each area of comparison (e.g., academic

achievement, language arts, reading, mathematics,

work study skills, social studies, personal

adjustment, social adjustment, emotional

adjustment, behavior, self-concept, attitude

toward school, and attendance). Overall, the

retained students had lower academic achievement,

poorer personal adjustment, lower selfconcept,

and held school in less favor than promoted

students. When compared with analyses

using only studies with matched students,

results were consistent. Holmes and Matthews

(1984) concluded that educational professionals

who continue to retain students do so despite

cumulative evidence demonstrating that

the potential for negative effects consistently

outweighs positive outcomes. Holmes and

Matthews also suggested “that the burden of

proof falls on the proponents of retention to

show there is compelling logic indicating success

of their plans when so many other plans

have failed”





In a far-reaching change in culture and strategy, teachers in Memphis City Schools will no longer be allowed to flunk children from prekindergarten through third grade.


Instead, teachers will build a spreadsheet for every student in the City Schools, documenting attendance and classroom achievement and using the data to make sure children learning at grade level stay the course and those falling below get immediate intervention, including summer school, self-paced online tutorials or the help of college-age tutors during the school day.


I, personally, see this as a good change. If the idea was to just not flunk the kids who are behind, it would be bad, but the idea is to get them caught up through one-on-one tutoring and other intensive interventions, while keeping them with their age group. I’d guess that a lot of the kids who are failing are not getting the one on one tutoring at home that the kids who pass get, so this shift in methodology should help fill in that gap.

Also included in the article was this amazing statistic….

“Generally, children who are retained never catch up,” said school board member Freda Williams. “They get the same curriculum again. If there are other challenges the child is facing, and they are not addressed, the child is held back for no good gain.”

In Memphis, both a poor and a majority African-American city, about one-third of the 105,000 City Schools students have been retained at least one year, creating a backlog of students, many of whom never graduate, Hamer said.

The problem starts early. Half of the 8,000 children who entered kindergarten three years ago didn’t make it to third grade.


Wow. Who knew?

From the Commercial Appeal

When parents registered their children for the Shelby County Schools earlier this month, some received a flier urging them to attend a town-hall meeting on school funding.

The fliers, it turns out, were paid for by Shelby County tax dollars, and were, according to County Commissioner Steve Mulroy:

“It was lobbying, propaganda against Plan B,” Mulroy said.

And then at the end they say…

Meeting on school funding

The next meeting on school funding is set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at Houston High School. It’s sponsored by the Shelby County Council PTA and will feature David Pickler as speaker. He’s an opponent of the funding plan known as “Plan B.”

Those with different views may hold their own town-hall meetings.


Now, to be fair, right there before the end, the president of the Shelby County Council PTA said anyone was welcome to come to the meeting at Houston High, and the meetings “aren’t meant to be biased”. But what’s with the last line of the article, stating  “Those with different views may hold their own town-hall meetings“? Perhaps it was an editorial oversight on the part of the CA, but it certainly seems to give the impression that the actual purpose of the meeting is more or less strictly to rally the residents outside of the city limits into opposing Plan B, and if you don’t like it, start your own town hall meeting.

Perhaps due to recent events, they fear having their own meeting “teabaggered”. Which, while it would honestly be pretty funny, is not a realistic fear, as such low-brow techniques are below progressives.