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Staking OUt the Successful Student


With the performance of students, teachers, and schools defining success under current standards-based accountability policies (e.g. Chicago Public Schools (Note 1); No Child Left Behind Act, (United States Department of Education, 2002)), school districts are implementing various forms of intervention programs as a means to improve student performance. By examining a pilot summer school program that is transitioning from a ‘low-stakes’ to a ‘high-stakes’ intervention program, this article examines the possibilities that exist for students to author themselves as learners, and it questions whether opportunities for students to identify themselves as successful learners are lost when an intervention program, such as summer school, becomes mandatory. The implications of this analysis highlight questions and concerns that policymakers and school personnel need to address when formulating high-stakes standards-based accountability policies and intervention programs.

The Contest
This study took place in a mid-size city in the Midwestern United States in the summer of
2002. The District developed this summer intervention program in response to a state-based statute titled No Social Promotion for grades 4 and 8 (Note 6). This statute called for local school districts to develop a set of promotional criteria based on student performance on the state’s standardized tests
at grades 4 and 8, a student’s report card, and teacher recommendations. The District developed a policy that determines the promotion of a student to the fifth or ninth grade to be based on a set of District-developed hierarchical criteria (Note 7). The District’s first criterion is for the student to attain a minimum grade in language arts, math, science, and social studies. Failure to do so requires
the student to attain a proficiency score of basic in that subject area on a state-based standardized test (Note 8). Failure to achieve that score(s) provides the student with the option to be retained or to attend a summer program. Thus, the student must pass the summer program in order to be promoted.

Read the rest at the pdf url below.

— Christopher Brown, University of Texas–Austin
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