Should Every Student Move Up to the Next Grade?


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Should Every Student Move Up to the Next Grade?

Many students have fallen behind this year because of remote learning and other pandemic-related disruptions, leaving districts to wrestle with the question of whether struggling students should automatically move up, or if it would be better for some of them to repeat a grade.

In Chicago, the nation’s third-largest school district with some 340,000 students, the Board of Education will vote on Wednesday on a proposal that would promote all elementary and middle school students to the next grade, regardless of whether they have fallen behind. (It adopted the same policy last spring, after schools closed down.) High school students still have to pass the required courses to graduate, but the district has removed some other requirements.

Robin Lake, the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, an education think tank, said, “There’s some reason to think it makes sense,” noting that holding students back or offering them below-grade-level work both make kids feel bad and generally aren’t very effective.

But she added that, along with promoting students who are behind, the district also needed to take steps to ensure that students could make up the learning they missed this year. “I want to know what’s going to happen to make sure those kids are successful long term,” Lake said.

(The board’s proposal says that “students who are identified as needing further academic support will be prioritized for possible interventions,” including summer school.)

Some districts are taking other approaches, and trying to prevent middle and high school students from failing courses.

In North Carolina, Guilford County Schools, where course failure rates soared during the coronavirus pandemic, is offering middle and high school students the chance to take a “fifth semester” during the summer to improve failing grades.

New York City, the nation’s largest school system, is also allowing middle and high school students to finish work after the term ends to earn a passing grade. (New York says, however, that it will still hold some students back if they have not made enough progress to be ready for the next grade level.)

And Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the country’s fourth-largest district, provided written notification in January to parents of students in remote learning who were not making adequate progress; while the district didn’t require parents to enroll their children in-person, parents had to acknowledge receiving the information if they wanted their children to continue learning remotely.

Since then, the district has offered those students tutoring before or after school, as well as instruction on Saturdays, or over winter and spring breaks. It is also offering an expanded and enriched summer program.

Research on elementary school students during the pandemic provides some support for Chicago’s promotion plan: An analysis by T.N.T.P., a nonprofit that helps districts improve teaching, and the online math platform Zearn found that students whose teachers began the 2020-21 school year teaching them grade-level content in math — going back to fill in content they had missed in the spring when needed — did better than similar students whose teachers started the year by teaching them the material they had missed from the previous grade.


Moderna said this week that its Covid-19 vaccine was powerfully effective in 12- to 17-year-olds in a clinical trial and that it planned to apply for F.D.A. authorization in June.

If authorized for use in adolescents, Moderna’s vaccine would join the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is already going into the arms of adolescents 12 and up. Pfizer will seek clearance in September for its vaccine to be used in children ages 2 to 11, and Moderna is testing its vaccine in children as young as 6 months.

By fall, middle and high school students will have had plenty of time to receive both doses of a vaccine. If the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for use in younger children on schedule, those students will have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving.

That’s a big deal for schools and districts, and it’s helping school officials and other leaders plan for the fall.

“Having adolescents vaccinated against the virus is really going to limit spread in school to a great degree,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “It potentially could even change mask requirements for school.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City reversed course this week and decided to eliminate a remote-learning option for the fall, in part because children have started receiving Covid-19 vaccines. New Jersey also does not plan to offer remote learning options, and many states and large districts, including in Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Miami-Dade County, Fla., are also pushing for a mostly in-person year.

But some parents who eagerly lined up for their own vaccines remain hesitant about inoculating their children. If that’s you or someone you know, here is a helpful explainer from The Times that may address lingering questions.


  • The Los Angeles superintendent committed to reopening public schools fully for five days a week in the fall, although the district still plans to offer a remote option.

  • Alabama lifted its ban on teaching yoga in schools, but teachers still cannot use Sanskrit names for poses.

  • Yearbook photos of at least 80 female students at a high school in Florida were digitally edited to hide their chests. Educators, here is a lesson plan based on the controversy.

  • Schools in Utah cannot issue their own mask mandates next year. Districts in Iowa can no longer require students or staff to wear masks, in opposition to C.D.C. recommendations.

  • A good read from The Times: Legislators in Texas are pushing to play down the state’s history of racism and slavery in classroom lessons. Read a Q&A with our colleague Simon Romero to understand the effect these efforts could have on the way generations of Texans see the world.


Our colleagues compiled a list of eight new picture books that celebrate joy, something we all need after this year. There’s blueberry preserving and bath time, a warm puppy and the delicious scents of Indian food. The stories are buoyant, and the art is beautiful.

If you’re a parent screaming into the void, check out“No One Is Coming to Save Us,” a new podcast about the child-care crisis in the U.S. It offers an encouraging look at other, more successful child care systems and includes a list of actionable items to fight for better benefits, most of which listeners can accomplish at home. And it offers a sense of shared, sometimes tearful struggle. That’s not nothing.

Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

Author: Kate Taylor and Amelia Nierenberg
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News


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