Critical Reasoning Question 4
Critics of strict “promotional gates” at the grade school level point to a recent study comparing students forced to repeat a grade with those promoted despite failing scores on an unscheduled, experimental competency test. Since there was no significant difference between the two groups’ scores on a second test administered after completion of the next higher grade level, these critics argue that the retention policy has failed in its expressed purpose of improving students’ basic skills.
Which of the following best expresses the argument made by critics of promotional gates?
A. Anxiety over performance on standardized tests often hinders a student’s ability to master challenging new material.
B. A student’s true intellectual development cannot be gauged by his score on a standardized competency test.
C. The psychological damage a child suffers by repeating a grade outweighs the potential intellectual benefits of a second chance at learning.
D. Strict requirements for promotion do not lead to harder work and greater mastery of fundamentals among students fearful of being held back.
E. Socioeconomic factors as well as test scores influenced whether a given student in the study was promoted or forced to repeat a grade.
Think you know the answer?
Correct answer: D
Since the critics claim, based on the study’s results, that the policy of leaving students back doesn’t improve their skills, the best restatement of their view is (D). (A) fails for two reasons: one, the critics never hinted that test anxiety was the reason for poor performance, and two, (A) discusses “challenging new material”, whereas the tests in question assess students’ basic skills. In (B), we’re not interested in students’ “true intellectual development”-again, it’s their mastery of basic skills. Anyway, (B)’s criticism of standardized test scores tends to go against the critics’ argument, which is based on those very scores. The psychological damage of being left back, raised in (C), is well beyond the scope; the critics never hinted at this. Finally, (E) fails because the critics never discussed socioeconomic factors at all-just test scores.