I know some of our math teachers at the high school level (mostly for algebra 1) are urged to do what they can to make sure a student passes. So if a kid has a 68%, .... "well, can't they just come in and do some make-up work and make it a 70% (which is passing in TX)?"
Now, teachers I know help the students in any way they can, and it's REALLY possible to pass class if you do your work and turn in homework and ask for help and get tutoring if you need it and pay attention in class. So I'm guessing that if the student has a 68%, then more often than not, it's because the student just REALLY doesn't get it (content) or REALLY doesn't get it (work ethic). Passing this kid along to the next level is not doing ANYONE any good: the student, the next teacher, the students in the next class this student would go to.
Then I was thinking about the students that were coming to us from the middle school. There are some kids that REALLY struggle with the math. They should not have passed their middle school classes. And in fact, this was supposed to be the first year that if they didn't pass the mandated NCLB test, then they would be retained. Hmmph.
We have a new teacher at our high school that taught at the middle school last year. This is what she relayed to me. All year long the teachers told the kids that they needed to pass the test, or they'd be retained. They drilled it into them. Then kids failed. Then the administration put them in extra tutoring and let them test again. Then if they failed, they had to take summer school and take the test again. Then MAGICALLY, all the kids passed. Poof. Let's move them on to high school and continue their struggles in harder classes when they haven't mastered the basics. Grrrrrrr.
Okay, just a big vent. I don't know what could stop this "passing along". Maybe we need to track the students in high school who are not successful and probe them about their middle school experience and see how many of those were passed along and how they're doing now. Maybe we could take that data to the middle school pass-along-ers. Would that help? I don't know.