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Social Promotion Policy In Chicago Analyzed

A new analysis shows that most Chicago teachers felt positive about the results achieved by ending social promotion in the Windy City's public schools.

The research, conducted by the Consortium on Chicago School Research through interviews and surveys with teachers and students, also found that time spent on test preparation initially increased after the high-stakes testing was introduced in 1996 in the Chicago school system.

But time on test preparation declined between 1999 and 2001 as teachers spent more time emphasizing academic subjects, according to the study in the nation's third-largest district, which has 438,000 students.

Social promotion is the practice of sending students with subpar academic performance on to the next grade to keep them with their peers.

Teachers responded to the accountability initiative by spending more time on content areas assessed by the state testing program, such as reading comprehension and mathematics skills.

Low-achieving students also reported experiencing greater academic support.

Still, the report cautions that teachers working at low-performing schools often spent up to a month of instructional time annually on test preparation, which may not result in "real increases in students' learning and future success."

The analysis also found that changes in teaching practices were significantly greater in 6th and 8th grades, with students in those grades showing greater passing rates than students in 3rd grade.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Higher Education

Parents of teenagers are becoming increasingly pessimistic about their children's opportunities to attend college, even if those students are academically qualified, a survey shows.

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The survey found that only 34 percent of parents polled last year believed the vast majority of qualified people in their state have the chance to attend college, compared with 52 percent in 2000. Fifty-eight percent of parents surveyed said many qualified students lack that chance.

The study, released March 3, was conducted by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan, opinion-research group based in New York City, and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a research organization in San Jose, Calif.

The survey found that concern about college access was greatest among minorities. Of African- American respondents, 76 percent in 2003 said that many qualified people are kept out of college, compared with 59 percent of Hispanics and 51 percent of whites who held that view.

"Public Attitudes on Higher Education: A Trend Analysis, 1993 to 2003" is available online at, under "research studies." Registration is required.

—Sean Cavanagh

Children's Playgrounds

Children need large, well-designed areas to play, but many urban areas lack proper space and amenities, a report points out.

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Request a copy of the report "Where Do Our Children Play?; The Importance and Design of Schoolyards" by calling New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law at (973) 735-0523 or emailing [email protected].

The report, commissioned by the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, a child-advocacy foundation underwritten by lawyers, recommends that designers and school officials consider several factors when designing a playground: gender and age differences, the needs of children with disabilities, and the existing ecology of the playground.

Enough space should be provided, it says, for distinct areas, such as for gross-motor activities, outdoor classrooms, performing arts, natural areas, and social- activity spaces.

Children need to play in proper areas to better stimulate creative thinking, solve problems, cope with tensions and increase social skills, the report says.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 23, Issue 27, Page 21

Published in Print: March 17, 2004, as Report Roundup
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