Social promotion

Drop-outs blame social promotion for their inability to handle high school, says the New York Post.

More students are failing ninth grade, says the Christian Science Monitor.

On the other hand, making students repeat the same program they’ve just failed doesn’t work very well either, say opponents of New York Mayor Bloomberg’s policy of retaining third graders.

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  1. Tom West says:

    As today’s New York Times article on social promotion makes clear, you can’t legitimately argue this by finding students who have been harmed by social promotion *or* retention. There are plenty of both to go around.

    It’s a matter of finding the statistically least harmful way of handling the situation of insufficient academic achievement.

    Personally, however, I can’t see retention staying as policy unless the standards are incredibly lax. Any policy that ends up with a 2-3% retention rate in well-performing schools is going to have a 50%+ retention rate in badly-performing schools, and there is no way that society has been prepared to handle the social consequences of that.

  2. Tom’s article above contains the interesting statement that neither social promotion nor holding underperforming students back helps the underperforming student. In that case, what about looking at what social promotion of underperforming students means to the rest of students? Cooperative learning and group work have become the norm in many school systems, and when you put a student simply unable to comprehend the material in a group, you hurt the learning of the other students.

  3. Sooner or later the rubber meets the road and the chickens come home to roost. At least the idea that social promotion hurts the kids it’s meant to help is beginning to catch on. However, it’s frustrating that standardized testing, not inadequate education, is still blamed for the problem. And what was that bunk about “different survival skills” in the CSM article?

  4. KimJ, Tom’s comment does not contain that statement. What he says is that anecdotal arguments for or against retention are not useful. (Tom, if that’s not what you meant, please correct me.)

  5. KimJ, did you mean the NYT article Tom linked to? If so, you’re right that it does contain that statement. (I need more coffee.)

  6. I have always been against social promotion and the articles in the NY Post and CSM just go to prove my point. If you are going to be the class screwup, and want to play hooky 30 times (or more) in a semester, you aren’t going to be learning enough in order to pass exams you’ll need to be promoted.

    I consider myself lucky that I took harder courses in high school, even though it was a struggle for me (learning doesn’t come easy in a lot of cases), but looking back a quarter of a century ago, the choices I made in high school allowed me to have the kind of career I enjoy today (yeah, i’m a computer geek) 🙂

  7. D. Cooper says:

    As a high school teacher for 30+ years I’ve been the lucky recipient of more than my share of social promotions. Underprepared students are a particular joy in mathematics, where a foundation in basic skills comes in handy. To say that these students present a unique challenge is an understatement. They have a tendency (which we fight) to bring down the level of instruction for those studemts who are prepared, thus denying them what they deserve,. And, because of the difficulties that they have keeping up academically it quite often manifests itself in the form of discipline problems. The extraordinary efforts that teachers need to expend dealing with these problems obviously takes its toll on the teacher as well as the students who are being denied.

    In schools where this promotion is wholesale, the burden placed on the next level up becomes just more and more impossible to bear. I can take a student from point X to point Y, but, if they’re not at point X when I get them you’re asking an awful lot of an ordinary human.

    I taught in a suburban high school on LI and as frustrating as this was at times, I can only imagine what it must be like in some other districts.

  8. The first step to solving any problem is admitting that you have a problem. Social promotion helps the schools in NOT admitting that they have a problem. Poorly-educated parents figure that as long as Junior is getting promoted, everything is OK. Smart parents may notice that their 4th grade kid is doing 2nd grade work – but they will soon give up trying to change the school and either move their kid elsewhere, find a supplemental after-school program, or do some teaching at home. (As when my father made me memorize multiplication tables and work with flash-cards at home – and this was way back in 1963…)

    But if you hold back 50% of a grade, then the parents, the school board, and the community know you’ve really got a problem. It will get fixed, or else the same people won’t be pulling down salaries for very long.

  9. D. Cooper says:

    I was with you Markm until the blame part. You seem to have placed some blame where perhaps it’s unjustified. A little clearer explaination of whose salaries you’re speaking of and what it is that ‘they’ should be doing differently.

    It would seem to me that ‘we’ are not sending the same ‘breed’ of student to the schoolhouse door today as we were in 1963. I’m not recalling ‘drug deals’ going down when I was in high school. I don’t recall any of my classmates telling a teacher to f— off, or take a swing at ’em. And, not only has the student being sent to school changed, so to has the society and the sender. When I was in school, on TV (if you had one) we had Hopalong Cassidy, and the Cisco KId … today we’ve got Gansta rap, Extreme Dating, and Howard Stern. Yikes.

    If a student brings an apple to a teacher today it needs to be checked for drugs and poison first.

  10. Yes, I meant the NYT article Tom posted. It was the first time I’ve ever heard someone say that basically neither approach is working. I’m trying to think if there’s a third way. Either you repeat the grade or you move ahead. I suppose maybe pulling failing students into special summer programs and the like, but I gather that’s not working much either.

  11. Let’s try a REALLY radical solution: promote kids based on ABILITY rather than calendar age.

    Developmentally, some kids are always going to be at the leading and trailing edges developmentally. Let those who develop faster move ahead, and those who develop slower get the extra help they need when they need it.

    Social promotion doesn’t work, obviously. The elephant in the room is that social GROUPING of students does not work. Group them by ability, and you’ll help ALL of them realize their full potential.

    As it is now, the slow ones never get it anyway, the average ones get ignored becaused they’re assumed to get it automatically, and the fast ones got it 2-3 years ago and are bored out of their minds.

    But it’s not politically correct to assume that all kids are not equal and have different needs. Let’s just shoehorn them all into today’s one-size-fits-all classroom, the brainchild of brainless administrators and educrats.

  12. Mark Odell says:

    Tom West wrote: As today’s New York Times article on social promotion makes clear,

  13. aschoolyardblogger says:

    Pedro, I think the line about differing survival skills likely meant coping skills or problem-solving skills. Some work harder and try and figure out a way, some withdraw from the problem altogether – both do it for survival.

  14. Bill Leonard says:

    Right on target, Claire! One point you didn’t mention: the fast kids who got it two or three years ago will be bored, and often they will amuse themselves with essentially antisocial behavior.

    That’s exactly what I did. When I arrived in California, in 7th grade, I quickly discovered that I was a little more than a year ahead of my class academically. So I was bored silly, and became the class cutup and wiseass. I must have made life truly miserable for the teacher. When matters were brought to the attention of my parents, I quickly shaped up (our home was not a democracy, and kids didn’t rule it) and learned to keep quiet and just read when I finished ahead of everyone else because I was essentially repeating what was a 6th-grade curriculum in the Des Moines school system. And I got a LOT of books read!

  15. Pedro and aschoolyardblogger:

    The mention of “different survival skills” in the
    CSM article is a reference to the realities of how the rich, middle class, and poor approach survival and how those different approaches to survival are important to understanding many of the problems that schools are experiencing.

    A well written, easy to read book on the subject is: Poverty: A Framework for Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty by Ruby K. Payne.

  16. Claire – I’m a fan of ability grouping (and of using tests to measure ability). But I found this comment of yours amusing:

    “it’s not politically correct to assume that all kids are not equal and have different needs.”

    Actually, what’s politically correct these days IS to insist that kids are not equal and learn at a different page. Problem is, the people who are saying this are the ones arguing in favor of social promotion. They just want to redefine each “grade” to encompass three to four grades of ability, and put all these kids of varying ability in the same class. They don’t want to admit that that is a recipe for driving both teachers and students crazy. And these types of educators are able to say, with no cognitive dissonance at all, that kids shouldn’t be forced to learn at the same pace (hence no evil testing), but kids should be promoted based on age and not ability (hence no evil retentions).

    Testing, though widespread, is politically incorrect (trust me, I know). While there are issues with using standardized tests to decide promotion, I agree with MarkM that the tests show that something is not working. Many of our students are not moving along at the level we think they should be moving; ending social promotion is just one way of promoting kids by ability, and not by age. The difference in the types of students these days, and the problems with discipline, are another issue to be considered.

    What frustrates me is that the response of the politically-correct to all this is to suggest getting rid of the tests. As though if we remove the measurement instrument, the problems magically disappear.

  17. D. Cooper says:

    Testing at some point becomes necessary to determine whether or not we’ve gotten from point X to Y. When I as a high school teacher am given the job of taking a class of crazed 9th graders from point X to Y, I’d like most to actually be at or near X when I start. Some are still learning their ABC’s so to speak.

    Many of the social promotions from a middle school (6-7-8) to a high school setting are for purely reasons of self defense. There’s no way a junior high school principal wants to deal with a bunch of over aged slow learners with discipline/learning/emotional problems. Off to the high school you go. This is not a fictional tale. It’s we teached ’em all we could … you perform the magic. I’m not here to say that in turn the middle schools have their ax to grind as well, but it is confounding to say the least. It’s not easy battling Gansta Rap, MTV, Extreme Dating and Howard Stern.

    Go configure.

  18. Tom West says:

    While demanding responsibility and achievement before conferring advancement might be the ideal, the real trick is getting from here to there without having the institution burn down.

    Perhaps an analogy would work. Imagine a country were prices of food are controlled. Because of this, not enough food is produced and it is heavily rationed. The obvious answer is allowing food prices to float, thus making it worth while for more people to produce food.

    EXCEPT, half a million people starve in the short term as the end to rationing and price control causes food prices to go through the roof. A revolution results and in the end, you have anarchy and a few million dead and more starving. The reforms are never implemented.

    THE POINT, you can’t just impose the proper final solution and assume that the system will magically adjust. If the upheaval and price is too severe, the changes will die, either quietly or spectacularly.

    So far, I have seen far too few systems that actually take into account how those communities most affected are supposed to survive the transition.

  19. D. Cooper says:

    To be sure, if retention becomes 3 or 4 sixteen yearolds sitting next to a 4th grader (of the regular progression type) that will not do. This problem is getting worse in suburban and rural schools, and has reached the point of absurdity in many urban areas.

    Send them to a special school… call it St. Remeadius High (this way they’re think they’re in a parochrial school)… give them every advantage, assess after two years, send some on to trade school, some to finish an acedemic program, and some it’s hit the road Jack you’re on your own. Some will say, oh no not the road, now you’re dumping them on ‘us’. Well, yes we are, and maybe now there’ll be fewer of them. In case you haven’t noticed they’re out there already. Would you rather we keep them a little longer so they can disrupt the education of a few more kids who would actually like to get one?

    Some will say everyone has a right to an education, and they’re correct; even the ones who want one.

  20. M Taylor says:

    As a middle school teacher, I can definitely say that we are caught between a rock and a hard place. Do we keep the socially deviant, slow-learning, sexually mature 16 year old in the same classroom for the 4th year in a row, sitting next to the 12 year old? Or do we “socially promote” them to the high school, where they will at least be with their “age” peers? I think a separate school for these students would really be best, but political correctness and budget restraints say otherwise.

  21. Tyson laron says:

    This problem will never be solved! It’s the nature of living in a free society. On the one hand, some think that grade promotion is a privilege to be earned. So, if you don’t meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, then you should stay behind.

    That would mean the possibility of a 16 year old driving to school and being the big man on campus to the 12 year olds that he is in class with. Also, this same 16 year old gets to enjoy being the dominant athlete, and all the attention that goes with it.

    But what about the alternative? Can America’s schools allow students to graduate that cannot read? Of course not!

    New York City’s proposed solution is to retain poor preforming students and provide them with special instruction; to which the instant reply is, why can’t that special instruction be provided at the next grade level.

    To pass or not to pass. That is the question. All students can learn, but all students cannot learn the same amount of information at the same rate. So when it comes right down to it, you have to give deference to the child’s age.

    Our Constitution emphasizes age over intelligence: The right to vote is determined by age, not whether you can read or write. Age is also a factor in legally determing one’s ability to drive, drink, work, go to certain mature movies, serve in the military, and whether they have sex or commit statutory rape.

    Students need to remain with their peer groups, and receive the help that they are willing to accept. After all, isn’t this the Land of the Free and the Home of those Brave enough to remain stupid. Our problem is not in fixing the schools, but in fixing our belief system. We care too much. We want to take care of everyone, even if they don’t want to take care of themselves. As long as America provides a safety net, then students will continue to view illiteracy as a viable option.

  22. Tom West says:

    Our problem is not in fixing the schools, but in fixing our belief system.

    I agree. Unfortunately, I suspect that fixing our schools and hoping *that* fixes societies attitudes is almost guaranteed to fail. Society itself won’t tolerate it.

    Changing those attitudes won’t be easy (if indeed it is possible). Those attitudes have developed as a natural reflex to our increased wealth in society and our growing ability to protect our young.

  23. Mad Scientist says:

    Any time one ststes that a “problem will never be solved” dooms any effort to failure.

    What one needs is a thorough analysis of the situation and put in place controls such that the first scenario does not come to pass.

    But that seems like just too much work.

  24. Tom West says:

    Send them to a special school…

    The trouble, Mr. Cooper, is that in many communities, your talking about the rule, not the exception. Now think about the social reaction when some poor sucker has to announce that for certain communities only 10%-20% are sent to a special school which allows them to graduate with an education that will allow them to go to college, the rest are essentially being detained until they are allowed to escape school.

    Read for the torches and pitchforks? 🙂

    That would mean the possibility of a 16 year old driving to school and being the big man on campus to the 12 year olds that he is in class with.

    It *might* be fun for the 16 year old. I suspect that most parents of the 12 year olds would have fits. The last thing most parents want is their children exposed to older, badly-performing kids who are seen as role-models (because of their age).

    I’m a fan of ability grouping (and of using tests to measure ability).

    I think you could get away with that it a society with much more uniform achievement. That and where we essentially accepted that it might take some children up to 18 years (instead of 12) to obtain a diploma. Unfortunately, we don’t and we won’t (can you image trying to persuade the poorest districts to defacto handle 50% more students?)

    Social cohesiveness in education stands on one important foundation. The average student doing an average amount of work will obtain a high school diploma. (Yes, where average is measured by school or community, *not* over a whole population).

    Break that compact for any reason (retention, high stakes testing, etc.) and you are wandering through a wading pool of gasoline holding a lit match. Of course this masks a real problem, but illusions matter. And the high school diploma is one *very* important illusion.

  25. Mad Scientist says:

    Testing to uphold standards in HIGH SCHOOL education is now referred to as “high stakes”?

    Gee, and I though that Porfessional Licensure examinations (i.e., PE, Bar, Medical, CPA, SEC, etc.), where the applicants hold at a minimum a 4 year college degree, were called high stakes.

    The fact is that ome people are uneducatable and are not college material. Best to identify them early and let them go to trade schools. This is how it’s done in most of Europe.

  26. Anyone else catch Bill O’Reilly totally dismantling the superintendent of the Levittown School District last night? The super was publicly outed — he claimed the US has “unbridled capitalism” (hence it “harms” kids), that 45% of his kids come from “poverty” (45%!!) and thus are not “responsible” for their shortcomings, that “so what” if a kid can’t read in 3rd grade — it’s then the 4th grade teacher’s problem. Can’t read after 4th grade? Then it’s the 5th grade teacher’s problem. The super actually said this!! He plainly admitted he is a supporter of social promotion.

    When O’Reilly said the super sounded like a socialist, he took offense and asked why Bill “called him names.” LOL!

  27. D. Cooper says:

    Tom, Regarding your first point … sending them to a special school … I agree that it is the rule in many urban areas, but what is happening now, is because they’re not sent to a special school, they’re allowed to ‘poison’ the atmosphere, and rather than 10-20% of that population going on to college that percent becomes less now. Some of these kins in essence actually prevent others from obtaining an education. That, is wrong.

    And Dave, I caught the show. I’m from LI and know Levittown well. This superintendent is part of the problem (plenty more where he came from), and it would tickle Mad to death to know that superintendents like him are battled day in and day out by teachers and their unions. Their promotion policies have for years been placing extraordinary requirements/burdens on teachers. There’s something that’s a little more than dishonest than giving someone a job they cannot possibly accomplish, and then take them to task for not be able to do it.

  28. Tom West says:

    they’re allowed to ‘poison’ the atmosphere, and rather than 10-20% of that population going on to college that percent becomes less now

    Indeed, someone once wrote is that the challenge is not to find a “good” school, but to get away from “bad” students.

    I suspect that most of the success of charter schools comes from the fact that they are in some way selecting (even those using lottery) because you don’t get sent to a charter school without some action on the part of the parent or students. Furthermore, there isn’t a strong incentive on the part of a charter school to not remove extremely the very few disruptive students back to the regular school system.

  29. I’m sure that some form of social promotion has always existed, but now it seems to be automatic and pedagogically justified. In our public schools, they use what is called ITRE. ‘I’ is the year that you introduce the topic or material, ‘T’ is the year that you teach the material so that 80 percent of the students have mastered the material, ‘R’ is the year(s) that you refresh the material, and ‘E’ is the year by which all students have mastered the material. I have never understood what the 80 percent (who have mastered the material) are doing when the 20 percent are still trying to learn and master the material from the previous year. One teacher at our school told me that many teachers don’t talk to the next grade teachers about their students (strengths, weaknesses, etc.) because they like to evaluate the kids themselves. She told me to give the new teacher a chance to learn about our child before we talk to her about anything. Parent-teacher conferences were at the end of October – two months after school starts! So, many kids are allowed to slide to the next grade without understanding the material and the next grade teacher has to figure it out him/herself.

    Also, many new “reform” math programs push spiraling that specifically allows students to go to the next grade level without showing understanding and mastery of the material. Revisiting material previously learned is always a good idea, but having to teach last year’s material to the stragglers when the 80 percent are ready to move on is not. The assumption is that those kids weren’t developmentally ready for the material, not that they just didn’t buckle down. I can’t imagine what fifth or six grade teachers think when the kids coming into their class do not know their times table.

    One education columnist said that holding kids back doesn’t work because studies have shown that these kids have a higher incidence of dropping out. Of course, if you just pass them along and they don’t learn anything, they graduate with a diploma! Fewer dropouts! No more problem!

    So, you don’t want to hold back 20 percent (or more) each year and you don’t want to pass everyone along. Who ever said that it had to be one extreme or the other? Set specific year-to-year expectations and use a judicious amount of hold back. I expect my child to buckle down and work even if it isn’t a lot of fun. I would hope that the schools want to teach kids the same thing. The slipping starts in Kindergarten. Each year the schools have to dumb down the curriculum because more and more kids are socially promoted. I think schools have to focus on and set standards for those students who are ready and willing to work and learn – not the other way around.

  30. D. Cooper says:

    Steve .. pretty much on target except for one thing … I taught high school mathematics for 30+ years … how about the kids coming into ninth grade who don’t know their times tables! Yipes! Talk about trying to perform magic. Send them to St. Remeadius High.

  31. Tom West says:

    I’ll reiterate. The problem is in the non-uniformity of retention. It’s one thing to talk about holding back 5-20% of students everywhere. It’s another to talk about holding back *almost everyone* at certain schools.

    Given the achievement gaps between poor schools and good schools is so large, it’s almost impossible to imagine policy that works for one set of schools actually fitting another.

    (My hypothesis of massive failure is based on the fact that inner-city school students are often listed as 2-3 years behind their peers in various studies. Even well above average students at such schools might easily be a year behind, indicating at least one year’s retention is required.)

    Also note that given the racial differences in scores and thus retention rates, retention becomes a real political powderkeg.

  32. Tom West says:

    One other point that just occurred to me, and it would be interesting to hear from a teacher who works in a system that does fail students:

    If a student is capable (for whatever reason) of learning only 80% of the material being taught each year, does he fail every second year?

    Being retained *does* allow a student to catch up with his peers. But it doesn’t allow you to pull ahead to give you a head start for the next year. Thus the year after a retention, you are learning 80% of the next grade’s material and then you’re retained *again*!

    Yow! Does this really happen?

  33. In high school, it isn’t a matter of retention. You either pass your 22 credits or you do not. If you can’t pass English, you keep taking English courses until you have enough to graduate. The kids aren’t “retained,” but they don’t graduate, either. The lower level English courses would probably earn scorn for their ease, but the kids in them still don’t tend to pass. They aren’t dragging down the regular classes, though. And a few do begin to flourish with the more individual attention. Every year I find a few I can work with to catch up and move into the college track.

    In our system, I think it is possible to retain in the lower grades, and it happens, but 9th grade is when they start to become truly accountable for not passing their classes.

  34. D. Cooper says:

    Tom, If below 65% is failing then the 80% rule can be a close call. In mathematics with the dependency on previous learning this is a problem. If you leave one course knowing 80% and enter another with the possibility of only learning 80% but alas have preparation for only 80% of that 80%, you’re screwed. 80% of 80% is 64% … you fail. If you’re lucky, you get a 65% .. and then next year is really fun. In many courses that are not as hierachial, this is not as problematic. That 80% effort and/or ability will get you another 80%. That’s probably the primary reason kids who do graduate from high school take four years of English and Social Studies, very few take four years of science or math.

    And, the achievemnt gap is between poor students and good students, not poor schools and good schools. Unless of course you’re insinuating that all students are equally capable and advantaged and that the schools where the poor kids live(economically) are not doing their job. Flip the populations and drive each set of kids to the other school, and you might find some other reason for the disparity. To be sure the failure rate in inner city schools poses a large problem which requires a large solution.

    And rita here we agree. 9th grade is when the ‘sh–‘ hits the fan. You fail 7th grade math, you go to 8th grade. You fail 8th grade math (no wonder), you go to 9th grade math. You fail 9th grade math … oops … back to 9th grade math again. But, but… sorry sonny, this is the big time now. The problem is that we wait to long for the wake up call … I think it’s getting better, and it’s being addressed at an earlier age now.

  35. I think the main problem of social promotion is in the lower grades, not high school. In the lower grades teachers don’t seem to want to enforce specific expectations from the kids. Our public school also adds in all of the (22 percent) IEP students in the regular classes. My belief is that this philosophy of inclusiveness forms the basis of of the problem. They want kids from a very wide range of abilities to learn and work together. This may have some benefits, but it has a lot of drawbacks. One of them is to allow students to slide from grade to grade without mastering the material. In some subjects this may be workable, but in math (which is cumulative) it has a terrible effect. A 20 percent lack of knowledge or skills in one year can mean that the student understands very little the next year.

  36. D. Cooper says:

    Steve not bad, but comments like ..In the lower grades teachers don’t seem to want to enforce specific expectations from the kids…. is just not the case. This is probably just the opposite of the reality. I would argue that it has become more and more difficult over the years to maintain those expectations in some schools, but to claim that it is a result of teachers not wanting to enforce specific expectations is a misstatement at best. It is probably better described as a ‘big fat lie’.

  37. Cooper, depends on which teachers you are talking about. Many will enforce standards as well as the administrators allow them too, some have their politically correct heads up their politically correct rears, and some just don’t give a damn.

    But it’s most of all a problem with the administrators.

  38. D. Cooper says:

    Markm, Steve’s complaint was that teachers were not enforcing specific standards implying I believe that this was a matter of incompetence as opposed to not enforcing them for some political agenda. I don’t think standards are enforced because administrators allow teacher to, but rather that the administrators require them to. Granted, some may do a better job than others, but I highly doubt that there are very many teachers who don’t want to enforce standards as Steve suggests.

  39. D. Cooper –

    I don’t think you understand what I was saying.

    “…but to claim that it is a result of teachers not wanting to enforce specific expectations is a misstatement at best.”

    Perhaps you don’t like the word “want”? However, our public school curriculum says that it is OK for 20 percent of the students to go on to the next grade without mastering specific material. The people in charge of our curriculum did not “want” teachers to enforce specific yearly expectations and our curriculum was developed as a collaboration between the administration and the teachers. (Isn’t social promotion all about not wanting to enforce specific expectations?) Parents are not wanted when it comes to defining the curriculum. I could give you specific examples where our schools ignored the parents (didn’t even ask for our opinions) and did exactly what they wanted. Perhaps this does not happen in your neck of the woods.

    Supposedly, in some later grade, teachers magically bring these 20+ percenters up to speed. In many cases it doesn’t happen. The school knows about and talks about this problem, but they have difficulty dealing with it because the problem arises from a fundamental philosophical decision. In the later grades (6, 7, 8) they have instituted “sunset laws” where kids are finally held responsible for getting their assignments done. (but not at the regular due date) If high shcool teachers wonder why kids can’t seem to buckle down and get their work done on time, this philosophy is a big contributing factor.

    You complain about how students don’t know the times tables by 9th grade. Do you blame it all on the students, parents, and culture? This may be true in some cases, but you seem to be ignorant of pedagogic reasons that contribute greatly to these problems. Many schools are all about “full inclusion” where borderline autistic kids are included in the regular classroom doing work in mixed-ability groups along with gifted and talented kids. I understand the reasons for doing this, but our school openly admits that this requires lower enforced standards and difficulty dealing with advanced students. They talk of “Differentiated Instruction” or other techniques to make all of this work. While they are “still studying the problem”, many parents are not waiting around. This isn’t just my opinion. Again, maybe this doesn’t happen in your neck of the woods.

  40. D. Cooper says:

    First of all Steve, curiculum is what we teach, it does not say that 20% move on, that would be policy. As a high scool teacher we fought that policy tooth and nail. And if I were an 8th grade teacher who failed 5 of my students, I have no say as to whether or not they move on to the high school. That is a school board/parental/administration process. My input would be the students grade. The retention policies in most school districts that move’em along I would dare say are opposed by the vast majority of teachers.

    You complain about how students don’t know the times tables by 9th grade. Do you blame it all on the students, parents, and culture?…. YES! The curriculum is not the problem in most cases, it is the policies regarding those who fail to meet its expectations. You’d find most teachers not favoring wholesale social promotions. Try telling some parent that their ‘genius’ is being retained. Holy cow does the sh– ever fly. We fought as have many a teacher, mixed ability grouping … I couldn’t agree with you more. What you fail to understand are the wide range of pedagogy that has been thrust upon teachers so that administrators can appease central administrators who in turn can appease the parents and the public. After all, every parent wants that My Child is an Honor Student at… bumper sticker.

    You’ve actually hit on some of the problems facing teachers in this arena … trying to perform the magic of ‘differentiated instruction’. We’re not magicians. My biggest complaint is that the things you’re concerned with and dislike are the very same things that the vast majority of teachers would agree with. I just think that you’ve misplaced the finger point.

    I understand the problem with blame… college profs blame high schools, high schools blame junior highs, junior highs blame elementary schools, they blame the parents, the parents blame the kid and alas some poor dog gets kicked. And, I love dogs!

  41. Tyson Laron says:

    I always get a kick out of hearing that it isthe fault of “the schools” when students fail. I guess that means its the mayor’s fault when I speed or run stop signs. After all, he’s responsible for providing this policy.

    Students suffer from poor choices, either their own or their parents. A small percentage of students do have severe learning disabilities, but the students that we are talking about suffer because they or their parents make poor choices in regards to the value of an education

    Yes, sometimes the schools do contribute to the problem. Unpreprepared or burned out instructors, substitutes, etc. can affect the learner, but these cases are rare. It does not affect 20% of our students. That would mean 1 out of every 5 teachers would have to be inadequate. I don’t see that in my community, and if its the case in any other community then social promotion is the least of their worries.

    Not all children learn at the same rate, and retaining them, which does allow them additional time to learn, does nothing for allowing them the opprtunity to catch up. Thusly, students drop out when they find that they have nothing in common with the younger students that now have classes with.

    So what’s the best solution, allow students to continue receiving specialized assistance as they move up with their peers, or keep them back until they quit. Either way their education is incomplete.

  42. Tom West says:

    And, the achievemnt gap is between poor students and good students, not poor schools and good schools.

    Sorry about not being clear. I use “poor school” as a shorthand for a school in which a large number of students do not perform well. Likewise a “good school” to refer to a school in which most students perform well. It is not meant to judge the school, the teachers, or, when it comes down to it, the students.

    It is obvious that congregations of poorly performing students don’t happen magically. Social situation has a large role to play in student’s academic aptitude. To condemn students for having adapted to such social pressures (even if it costs them academically) seems counterproductive. Our efforts should be directed at counteracting those influences rather than somehow assuming that our children can ignore their environment.

  43. D. Cooper says:

    While we disagree regarding King & King, I agree with your assessment of the students who are victims of their economic circumstances. I’m not so sure thought that we condemn them so much as we do not have the magic solution to counteract and overcome their situations or the reactions they’ve taken to mitigate their position.

    I think that we recognize the problem, economics… the solutions are complicated. We’ve obviously not found too many and the sub culture thusly formed is counter productive. I wish I knew. It seems at times like they’ve in a deep hole and someone’s throwing them more shovels instead of ladders. Much of what we do to help is counter productive as well.

  44. D. Cooper –

    First you accuse me of lying and then you don’t want to read my post carefully. Allowing 20 percent to go on to the next grade without mastery is not just a tack-on policy, it is an integral part of the curriculum. The curriculum document describes each topic or skill for each grade and states specifically that 20 percent can go on to following grades without mastery. There is some future grade where mastery is supposed to happen, but the school admits that there is a big problem helping students catch up.

    You seem to think that I am playing some sort of blame game. You seem to be hung up about that. This thread was talking about social promotion and my comments are that some of this is allowed on purpose as an integral part of the curriculum. This is not blame. It is a discussion of educational philosophy. I have also stated our school policy about “full-inclusion”, mixed ability group learning, and no pull-out for the advanced students. This is not my opinion. This is the stated school policy (philosophy) that is fully integrated in the curriculum.

    Students learn at different rates, but many schools place primary importance on keeping all same-age kids together. This is how it plays out in the curriculum.

    Tyson wrote:
    “So what’s the best solution, allow students to continue receiving specialized assistance as they move up with their peers, or keep them back until they quit. Either way their education is incomplete.”

    My opinion (and that of many other parents I have talked to) is to disagree with this educational assumption and philosophy. This is not blame. It is a disagreement. By blaming it all on the students, parents, and culture, you get away without addressing these basic educational assumptions.

  45. Steve — inclusion is mandated by the IDEA, and it is federal law. Schools are required to do it. Sometimes a student can be included without disruption; sometimes a student cannot. As a teacher, I’ve experienced both. Sometimes kids who can’t gain much academically do gain quite a bit socially — you can see they’re happy to be in the classroom. Sometimes kids who can gain academically are just too disruptive. The law leaves a wide grey area called “least restrictive environment,” which is wide open to interpretation and offers little guidance to schools and families. The law has some good points and good intentions, but I think it is a work in progress, and I think that practice doesn’t always bear out theory. In the meantime, while it is certainly a complicating factor, I don’t think it deserves the blame for all of education’s woes at the moment.

  46. D. Cooper says:

    Steve,I do not believe I called you a liar. I stated the claim that teachers do not want to enforce standards was a ‘big fat lie’. A big fat lie in that the statement is not true, as in inaccurate. Better? And I did read your pos carefully. I don’t quite get the big rift here about the 20% and tack-on yadda yadda. I did not challenge the 20%, I was only challenging the statement that teachers do not WANT to enforce standards. And whether social promotion is a result of curriculum or policy is of little concern. I oppose it either way. I’d place the blame for the failed policies regarding social promotions on those who make the policy. It’s not the teachers.

    You also state that you disagree with these various policies yet say you aren’t blaming. Well shouldn’t you be. If you don’t decide whose responsible for the policies how on earth can you hope to effect change. I’d think you’d be blaming the policiy makers … makes sense to me. And that was me you asked …if I blame it all on the students, parents and the culture … referring not to this promotion issue, but the general student preparedness … and my answer to that was YES, I do. And, that particular issue, I’ve elaborated on at great lengths on this blog. Reminders if needed.