Social promotion and retention policies in Texas elementary schools

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Rodriguez, Anissa Jean, 1978-

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The Student Success Initiative (SSI) established, in 1999, various promotional gates for students to pass the state-mandated high-stakes assessment test known as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills (TAKS), administered in the areas of reading for third graders and of reading and math for fifth graders. Largely perceived as antisocial promotion legislation, outcomes of the SSI implementation did not seem to coincide with their original intentions. To ascertain the veracity of this claim, interviews were scheduled with a variety of local level stakeholders serving as decision-making participants in a structure known as the grade placement committee. Grade placement committee members address student promotion and retention decisions when students do not meet the passing standards for the TAKS tests. Because the SSI is still recent in its implementation, to date there is not a wide body of research examining the stakeholder perceptions of the SSI and of their role in the decision-making process for student retention and promotion. To this end, several interviews were conducted with teachers, with parents, and with campus or district-level administrators. The interviews served to gauge the stakeholder perceptions regarding their role in the grade placement committee itself as decision-makers and also their perceptions or their experiences regarding how often or likely students are to be promoted or to be retained in the context of the grade placement committee meetings. The participants also spoke about their views regarding the effectiveness of the SSI and the outcomes of its implementation. The research participants spoke to their personal experiences with student retention and promotion. The stakeholders' views range from the perception that the SSI puts students at risk of failure, actually causing students to be promoted more often to the opinion that the SSI does hold both the teacher and the parents more accountable for student success. Several broad themes emerged from the data. The themes of perceived power, underlying or unwritten agendas and a call for change due to dissatisfaction with the current system were evident upon the examination of the data.