Illumina worked with HGSE to develop “Promotion vs. Retention”, a novel multimedia case study designed to help teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors, and students in education and in philosophy grapple with key concepts and dilemmas in educational ethics. Users are responsible for deciding whether “Ada,” a fictitious over-age but underachieving 8th grader, should be retained in 8th grade, promoted to 9th grade, or sent to an alternative school. To make the decision, users examine Ada’s school records and written work, review information about her classmates and school district, encounter wisdom from the field, assess relevant research, and participate directly in a simulated teacher meeting. Users are actively engaged in the case throughout: selecting a role, sorting and explaining and revisiting their ethical values, choosing pathways for further inquiry, reflecting on the diverse views and information they encounter, and making interim and final decisions about Ada’s future. The resource can be used in a fully online or blended format, and can be completed either asynchronously or synchronously, individually or in groups, and either as a stand-alone learning experience or as a lead-in to group discussion.

The primary audience is adult learners with backgrounds in education and the social sciences — teachers, school principals, district leaders and administrators, guidance counselors, and staff who work in support roles in education, such as counselors. The program has been pilot tested in Massachusetts, Maine, North Carolina, and Colorado, under a wide array of conditions and with a wide variety of users, from university professors to district administrators and even Middle School students. Feedback has been uniformly outstanding. One of the largest school districts in the country has requested to use the program in district-wide professional development. It will also be adopted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a core component within its “Equity and Opportunity” foundational course, which will be required for 650 Master’s students annually.