One reason for the popularity of the retention policy in Chicago--aside from the advantages of having a popular mayor to promote it--was the strong and relatively steady improvement in the Chicago schools.
In fact, even while things were looking bad last spring, a new study by Brian Jacob of Harvard and Lars Lefgren of Brigham Young provided more evidence to support the proponents of Chicago's retention program.
The Jacob/Lefgren study, however, did not receive nearly the attention of the one-two punch effect created by the negative CCSR studies and New York's controversial unveiling of its new retention policy.
Retention opponents like Don Moore, executive director of the education reform organization Designs for Change, frequently criticized the policy for being a misuse of standardized test scores that simply overidentified poor and minority children for retention.
Though the Tribune remained a strong supporter of the retention policy, in 2003 the Chicago Sun Times published a two-part series, "The Daley Generation," that criticized it.
When the two critical CCSR studies were released, the timing couldn't have been worse for the proponents of retention.
Though longtime supporters of stronger accountability were quick to express their dismay at what seemed to be the school board's even quicker abandonment of the math component of the retention standard, the Tribune's "surrender" editorial predicted what was likely to happen.
All but unnoticed at the time, however, were the CCSR studies that had found benefits in the retention program, as well as the Jacob/Lefgren research, which seemed to dispute some of the substantive negative findings, at least as they applied to the effect of retention on third graders.
Risk retention isn't a capital-free decision, and approaching it that way to save on premiums can be disastrous for a company.
Multi-year arrangements can still be very useful vehicles for risk retention, but before embarking on one, be sure you understand the accounting rules thoroughly.
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Media Contact: Marko Stankovic, Retention Science, (310) 598-6658, Marko@retentionscience.