The validity of grade 5 and 8 placement committee decisions for predicting high school graduation
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Grade-level retention and social promotion are complex issues which have long-lasting repercussions for children. Policy development and implementation for grade-level retentions have been the subject of reform efforts at the international, national, and state levels. As a response to national political trends in favor of halting social promotion, Texas responded by instating strict guidelines for grade-level retention at Grades 5 and 8. The Student Success Initiative (SSI) mandated the implementation of the Grade Placement Committee (GPC). The GPC determines whether to advance a student to the next grade who had unsuccessfully attempted the state assessment three times. The research on the GPC decision and its link to high school graduation is limited. The purpose of the study was to determine the criterion-related validity of GPC decisions in 5th and 8th grades in predicting high school graduation, controlling for selected demographics and special programs. The following research questions guided this study: (1) To what extent does the Grade Placement Committee (GPC) decision in the 5th grade predict high school graduation?; and (2) To what extent does the Grade Placement Committee (GPC) decision in the 8th grade predict high school graduation? The study employed a correlational design and was predictive in nature. Due to non-experimental nature of the study, no causal inferences were drawn. A sample of Grade 5 (2009–2010) and Grade 8 (2012–2013) students was obtained from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Two Binary Logistic Regression (BLR) (Field, 2018) analyses were performed to examine the unique contribution of the GPC in predicting graduation after controlling the demographics and special programs variables. After controlling for the confounding variables of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, special education status, and limited English proficiency status, the GPC decision was a statistically significant predictor of the outcome measure, which was not surprising because of the large sample sizes that enabled the detection of small effects; however, its practical significance/explained variation was limited. The GPC promotion decision seemed to be a better predictor of graduation at 8th grade compared to 5th grade. The implications of the study are substantial for practitioners because the GPC policy continues to be implemented in Texas in Grades 5 and 8 even though the majority of students are promoted. The theoretical framework selected for the study was Critical Policy Analysis (CPA) (Young & Diem, 2017). The results are discussed in the context of this framework. Immediate and sustained systemic changes are needed, specifically an overhaul of the GPC process should be considered.
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