Dozens of eighth graders at Rhode Island’s Calcutt Middle School who failed two to three of their core classes of math, science, English and social studies have been allowed to graduate and move on to high school, because students who fail are more likely to drop out, WPRI reports.

According to an email response sent by incoming principal David Alba to the school’s eighth grade team, the change he has made to the Calcutt retention policy “is not a matter up for debate.”

In response to questions about the policy, Central Falls’ Superintendent Frances Gallo wrote in an email, “It is well documented that retention significantly increases the likelihood of a student dropping out of school by more than 50 percent, especially with regards to minority students who come from urban schools.”

Gallo went on to say that the district must ensure that struggling students are not retained solely on the basis of final cumulative average or behavior.

Calcutt’s teachers, on the other hand, hold an opposing view, writing in one response to Alba: “You are essentially saying that failing 50 percent of the time and even 75 percent of the time is a standard in which Central Falls believes.”

Alba responded that he would support retention in the event it was proven an effective policy. Nationally, the high school graduation rate increased a modest 3.5 percent between 2001 and 2009 amid aggressive efforts to prevent dropouts.

Teachers who spoke to WPRI maintain that graduating students who fail is also ineffective.

This isn’t the first time the district has come under fire. In 2010, it made national news when the Central Falls High School school board voted to fire all 74 teachers and 19 staff members, including the principal.

According to The Providence Journal, Gallo claimed the move was necessary after the teachers’ union refused to go along with her proposed plan for increased workload without much extra pay.

WPRI has also reported that eight graduates of the Central Falls class of 2011 missed at least 50 of 180 school days, with some missing half the year.

“It’s rare but it could happen,” Gallo said when asked if a student could miss half the year and still graduate.

She claims that the frequently absent graduates met state requirements and made up missed classroom time on weekends and in other programs.

Several Central Falls teachers remain skeptical about the 2011 graduation rate, which jumped from 48 percent in 2010 to 71 percent over the course of one year.