“The kids are coming in thinking they are on grade level or above,” McDaniel said, “and they're below.”
The problem of grade inflation and social promotion was obvious in the debate over high school graduation standards. Last year, some students claimed to have a grade-point average as high as 3.6 — yet couldn't pass four of seven tests to prove proficiency. And students could miss up to half the questions on some of those tests and still pass.
The problem also is apparent in the debate over a new law requiring third-grade reading proficiency before advancing. The Oklahoma Policy Institute notes a statewide survey of school superintendents found 78 percent of districts expect retentions to increase as a result. This data makes clear that grade inflation and social promotion are widespread problems in Oklahoma schools.
But not at KIPP schools, which Mathematica concluded are “consistently more likely than local district schools to have students repeat a grade.” At KIPP schools, administrators and teachers are held accountable for student results. At KIPP retreats, every school leader's results — including student-level data on school completion, reading, math, attendance, suspension and more — can be reviewed by all.
Compare that approach with the response of many Oklahoma administrators when their results were publicized through A-F grading of schools. They described the grades as unfair and punitive — even though just nine of 1,744 sites received an F.
Mathematica's findings make clear KIPP's educational model works, benefiting children from the most challenging backgrounds. It's time other school officials embraced KIPP's methods, instead of railing against success.