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FAQs Pupil Promotion & Retention

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding pupil promotion and retention (PPR).

The following FAQs are divided into four topics:


Local PPR Policies and Decision Making

  1. On what criteria should school districts base pupil promotion and retention decisions?

    State law requires every school district to have a written PPR policy approved by the district's governing board. Consistent with Education Code (EC) Section 48070.5(b) External link opens in new window or tab., a PPR policy needs to include students' grades and other indicators of academic achievement. Students' results from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System may be included as indicators of academic achievement. However, CAASPP summative test score results may not be the exclusive criterion for promotion or retention until the minimum performance levels required for meeting this purpose are established, pursuant to EC Section 60648 External link opens in new window or tab..
  1. How can I get a copy of my school’s PPR policy?

    State law requires every school district and county board of education to have an approved policy on promotion and retention. Usually the school district’s superintendent’s office is the best place to start asking where a copy can be located, for a copy to be sent to you, to arrange to pick up a hard copy, or to find it online.

    For charter schools, the authorizing entity (usually a local school district governing board or, more rarely, the California State Board of Education) has copies. If promotion and retention policies were not specifically addressed in the approved charter petition, then the PPR policy of the school district in which the charter school is located becomes the school’s policy?
  1. I was told that the district is required to use the 40th percentile on a norm-referenced test as part of its measures for promotion and retention. I cannot substantiate this in Education Code.

    The EC does not set a minimum level on any local test for promotion or retention purposes. If a school district (or charter school) incorporates test results among other factors, including grades, in its PPR policy, then the district (or charter school) may set minimum performance levels. Minimum STAR performance levels for promotion or retention have not been established pursuant to EC Section 60648.
  1. May a school retain or promote a student without parent or guardian approval?

    Yes, a school can retain or promote a student without parent or guardian approval. However, the district PPR policy approved by the district's school board must provide an appeal process for parents who disagree with a principal's promotion or retention decision for their student.
  1. Do parents have any right to retain their children for lack of academic progress when the school continues to promote the child to the next grade, especially at the middle grade level?

    A parent has a right to appeal the decision to promote or retain a child. State law requires districts to have promotion and retention criteria for students who are in their last year of middle school (most commonly eighth grade) and are ready to move on to high school (EC Section 48070.5[a][5]). Therefore, the district's PPR policy should provide for the identification of pupils who should be retained and who are at risk of being retained in their current grade when it is their last grade before high school based on grades and other indicators of academic achievement designated by the district (EC Section 48070.5[b]). More important than a decision to have the student promoted or retained at this level is the need for the student to receive additional instructional intervention that will help to improve academic performance.

  2. Is there a high school promotion and retention process?

    The state does not require school districts to have student promotion and retention criteria beyond the last year of middle school to the first year of high school. However, districts may set criteria for promotion for successive grades in high school.

  3. Is there a law or policy regarding the number of times a student can be retained?

    There is nothing in the EC that prohibits school districts from retaining a child in more than one grade. Some districts’ PPR policies prohibit students from repeating more than one elementary grade. However, school districts are required to develop their own PPR policies consistent with the requirements of EC Section 48070.5.

  4. Are there state-approved forms for notifying students and parents when students are identified as at risk of retention, recommended for retention, or retained in grades one through eight?

    There are no state-approved forms for notifying parents when a student has been identified as at risk of retention, recommended for retention, or retained. Each school district is responsible for creating its own forms in accordance with its PPR policy.

  5. May private schools promote or retain students a grade level?

    Yes, EC Section 48070-48070.6 do not apply to private schools. Please visit the CDE’s Private School Web page for more information.

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Parent and Guardian Rights and the Appeal Process

  1. May a school retain or promote a student without parent or guardian approval?

    Yes, a school can retain or promote a student without parent or guardian approval. However, the district PPR policy approved by the district's school board must provide an appeal process for parents who disagree with a principal's promotion or retention decision for their student.

  2. Do parents have any right to retain their children for lack of academic progress when the school continues to promote the child to the next grade, especially at the middle grade level?

    Parents are required to be provided notice when their child is identified as being at risk of retention, as early in the school year as practicable. A parent has a right to appeal the decision to promote or retain a child as described in FAQ #3, below.

  3. Our child's teacher has decided that she should be retained in the same grade next year. We do not agree with this decision, even though the school principal does agree with it. How can we appeal this decision?

    Every school district must have a district board-adopted PPR policy that describes an appeal process for challenging a pupil promotion or retention decision on the part of teachers and other district staff (EC Section 48070.5[f]).

    Follow the steps outlined in the appeal process and be sure to keep a record of the steps taken to follow the process as well as those taken by the school district. An appeal process may require a written appeal to be submitted within a specified number of work days after a district’s decision to step into the process. Appeals usually start at the school site level with the principal and teacher(s) involved and go on to the district level, with the final decision on the appeal made by the district superintendent or by the district governing board. Note that the burden is on the parent as the appealing party to show why the promotion or retention decision should be overruled.

  4. Even though our son was promoted to high school, we would like him to repeat the eighth grade because we feel that he is lacking understanding in many of the core subjects. The high school agrees with our decision, but the middle school and the district superintendent believe that he is ready to move on. What are my options as a parent at this point?

    The decision to retain or promote a student from the eighth grade should be based on the school district's criteria in its PPR policy. These criteria should include grades and other assessment measures of the student's proficiency in reading, English-language arts, and mathematics. If the parent or guardian feels the student does not meet these criteria, the parent or guardian may appeal the decision by following the appeal process set forth in the same PPR policy, which may be requested in writing from the school district. (See the answer to the prior question for more information on the appeal process.)

  5. What legal recourse do I have if I am convinced that the district's PPR policy, or the manner in which it is being implemented by school and district staff, is violating my child's educational or civil rights, either through discriminatory treatment or through a failure to carry out the district's PPR policy or the California Education Code requirements pertaining to pupil promotion and retention?

    California EC provides no further recourse beyond the appeal process in district PPR policies, and there is no direct state oversight of district PPR policies. However, if you believe that the district is implementing its PPR policy in a manner that is discriminatory in regard to your child, you may contact the CDE’s Office of Equal Opportunity. The address is 1430 N Street, Suite 6019, Sacramento, CA 95814, and the phone number is 916-445-9174.

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Supplemental Instruction

  1. My 10th grader failed his third quarter of Sophomore English and is currently completing unsatisfactory work. I want him to take English again in summer school. Why aren't high schools required to offer summer school classes to students in danger of failing anymore?

    Until 2013, SI programs, such as required summer school for students who failed the English and/or Mathematics sections of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), when the CAHSEE was still administered, were financed through state categorical funding. At that time, LCFF legislation eliminated categorical funding streams such as SI and thus the statutes associated with these funds are no longer enforceable. However, if a former categorically-funded SI program, such as summer school, is considered to be important at the local level, it can become a documented activity in the district’s LCAP and become funded through LCFF. See Principal Apportionment for more information about how funds are distributed to LEAs.

  2. My child is getting poor progress reports and failing grades this year, yet the school is not providing interventions. What can I do so that my child receives remedial instruction?

    EC section 48070.5 requires that a school district's PPR policy specify the opportunities for remedial instruction for pupils who are identified as being at risk for retention. Inquire at the school site or at the district level, if necessary, for information on how your student can obtain access to the opportunities for remedial instruction that should be available to pupils under this statute.

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Research and Data on Promotion, Retention, and Intervention

  1. Where can I obtain quality research on retention, promotion, and intervention?
    • Grade retention is one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout. In adolescence, retained students are more likely to experience problems such as poor interactions with peers, disliking school, behavior problems, and lower self-esteem.

Learning Disabilities Association. 1998. To Promote or Retain? External link opens in new window or tab. Pittsburgh, PA:Learning Disabilities Association (accessed July 6, 2015).

    • The weight of the evidence of literally hundreds of studies shows that retaining children does not produce higher achievement. Rather than flunking students, schools should provide high quality instruction for children who find learning difficult.

    Thompson, C. and E. Cunningham.  2000. Retention and Social Promotion: Research and Implications for Policy External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF). ERIC Digest Number 161 (accessed July 6, 2015).

    • Retaining students, regardless of the grade at which they are retained, increases the likelihood that they will drop out of school. Consistent with the Chicago findings, the advantage for retained students declined each year and disappeared altogether after three years.
  • Promotion studies

Colangelo, Nicholas, Susan G. Assouline, and Miraca U. M. Gross, editors. 2004. A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, Volume II External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).  The Templeton National Report on Acceleration. Iowa City, Iowa:The University of Iowa (accessed July 6, 2015).

    • Research shows that despite much positive empirical research, acceleration is still viewed unfavorably by many teachers and school administrators

Rogers, K. B. (2004). “The Academic Effects of Acceleration External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF). In A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, Volume II, edited by N. Colangelo, S. Assouline, and M. U. M. Gross. Iowa City: The University of Iowa (accessed July 6, 2015).

    • Positive findings on the grade skipping of gifted students “comprises one of the strongest and most-consistent bodies of research in the field of gifted education” (p. 55).
  • Intervention resources from the CDE

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

    • A process that provides the structure for integrating resources and implementing interventions, emphasizing both academics and behavioral/social strategies.

Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2)

    • RtI2 is a key aspect of MTSS: when students struggle, their teachers, parents, and other relevant educators collaborate and look at work samples and other data to explore possible causes and develop plans of intervention, so students can receive effective additional support.
  1. Has the state collected any data regarding the number of students retained per district, grade level, ethnicity, gender, or age?

    The CDE has never collected student retention data in a systematic way. California EC only provides general guidelines for district-level PPR policies and requires no data reports in this area.
Questions: Roxane Fidler | rfidler@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-4861 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, April 28, 2016

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