How I Spent My Summer Vacation…in School

Published November 1, 1999

Chicago’s no-nonsense approach to social promotion has been taken up by many other cities and school districts across the nation. However, since retained students show up disproportionately in dropout statistics, mandatory summer school is regarded by many as an essential companion program to ending social promotion, together with tutoring and after-school programs.


A new bar on social promotion could hold as many as half of Atlanta’s third-graders back this year because of poor reading skills.


Under a new California law that requires school districts to end social promotion, students who fail at the end of the 1999-2000 school year will have to spend next summer in school. If they still fail after summer school, they will not be promoted to the next grade. The Pasadena United School District held back 410 students this year versus 164 last year and 98 in 1997. The number of students who were required to take summer school surged from 2,867 last year to 7,784 this year.


A new state law ending social promotion this year could cause up to half of Denver’s third-graders to be retained because of sub-par reading skills.


With the end of social promotion, school officials expect as many as 20 percent of students could be held back from promotion to high school at the end of the 1999-2000 school year.

New York City

Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew assigned 35,344 failing students in grades three, six, and eight to summer school in July this year. However, 14,259 played hookey and 7,548 of those who took classes failed the end-of-summer test. The program was marred by a subsequent finding that 8,668 of the original students had been assigned to summer school in error since they already had qualified for promotion to the next grade. These 8,668 students were promoted to the next grade even though some of them had not attended summer schools or had attended and failed the end of summer test.


This year’s kindergartners will be the first cohort of students required to pass the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills before promotion to fourth, sixth, and ninth grades. However, schools already are taking a harder line on promotion. In Waco, 7.8 percent of elementary and middle school students will be retained this year and 8,000 first through third-grade students in the Houston Independent School District were sent to summer school because they didn’t have the skills required for promotion. While tenth-grade in HISD has 11,300 students, retention has ballooned ninth-grade enrollment to 18,200.