Education A National Roundup

Chicago Policy Changes Fuel Lower Retention Rates

By Catherine Gewertz — September 22, 2004 1 min read

The Chicago school district, long the target of both praise and condemnation for retaining thousands of struggling students in their current grades, has announced that it is holding back fewer pupils than ever.

Figures released Sept. 10 show that 7,894 students will have to repeat a grade this fall, compared with 10,839 last year and the all-time high of 13,308 in 2002.

District leaders said the reduction in retentions was due in part to higher achievement, which meant fewer students in the “benchmark grades” of 3, 6, and 8 had to attend summer school.

But the officials pointed out that the drop resulted in part from two policy changes adopted in March. One limits the number of times a student may be retained to once each in grades K-3, 4-6, and 7-8.

The other eliminated performance on the mathematics portion of the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills as a criterion for retention. Students now can be retained only for poor performance on the reading portion of that test. -C.G.