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Hamilton School District had a serious problem in that an unacceptably high number of students were dropping out before graduating from high school. The district had come to the conclusion that much of the problem of a high drop-out rate was due to widespread social promotion. Social promotion occurs when students who have not mastered required material at a particular level are still promoted to the next level. The district came up with a solution intended to combat the problem of social promotion, thereby also dealing with the high drop-out rate. The solution the school district came up with was to test students at the end of the school year to determine if they were ready to move on to the next grade level. It was decided that it was infeasible to test all students at the end of each school year. Instead, it was decided that a more feasible solution was to test all students only at the end of the sixth grade to determine whether or not they were ready for junior high school.

The district had high hopes for the program. One outcome that it expected from the program was that social promotion would end. The fact that students had to be tested at the end of the sixth grade would show teachers that there was no point in socially promoting unprepared students in the early grades. Another outcome that the district expected was that more students would be better prepared in junior high school and high school. After all, if students had to pass a ttest to move from sixth grade into junior high school, then they would have to be prepared. A final expected outcome was that more students would graduate from high school. If students were better prepared for junior high school and high school, then it seemed natural that more students would graduate.