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Social Promotion Or Retention: The Only Choices For Failing Students?

1285 words - 5 pages

Social Promotion or Retention: The Only choices for failing students?

How to help students who fail, or students who do not achieve up to a certain academic standard, is an issue that probably goes back to the beginning of levels of school for students to progress through. In the U.S. it goes back to the 1840’s where age-graded schools began. In those times children who did not meet a certain standard were retained, or they repeated that grade. Rates of grade retention are difficult to trace in the past as well as currently. In some of these illustrative examples, a state could reduce retention by half in thirty years. However, different states had different retention rates. In 1909 one Massachusetts school district had a 7.5% retention rate while a Tennessee had a 75.8%. “In the 1930’s educators recognized that grade repetition might endanger student’s social and emotional development, which gave rise to the practice of social promotion. As a result of this policy, students were passed on to the next grade even if they were not ready for the work.” (Alkin, 1114) Both social promotion and retention intend to rectify the problem of failing students. However, does either of these two methods succeed? If they do not then what does?

Retention is the process of keeping students at the grade they fail. However, according to Donald R. Moore, the executive director of Designs for Change, a Chicago non-profit group that strives to improve schools, “It’s a politically popular initiative, but it harms kids in the long term.” (Gewertz, 1, 13 2002) talking about repeating the same grade. Holding students back a grade without changing the instructional strategies is ineffective. Much evidence suggests that the achievement of retained students still lags behind that of their peers after repeating a grade, making it an ineffective strategy for enabling students to catch up.” (Riley, 1999) Also it increases the likelihood of dropping out of school. So much so that if a person is held back twice it is almost certain they will drop out. A University of Georgia study helps prove this point. It involved over 11,000 students and concluded that repeating a year has a negative effect on a student’s performance. It also showed that the students tend to fall farther behind during the second year which could explain why they rarely graduate. “Retained children are 20 to 30 percent more likely to drop out of school when compared to low achieves who are allowed to move to the next grade.” (McBrien) states Lynn McBrien a former editor-in-chief of Education Today and a vice-president of corporate development for the National Reading Styles Institute. There are other studies that state the similar things.

Due to these and possible more reasons the idea of social promotion was implemented in some areas. Social promotion is the passing of students who fail to meet the criteria for passing. It’s called “social” because it is often used with the student’s social and...

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