As a fifth-grade teacher, Tracey can’t hold students back, she writes in Stories from School.
I’m supposed to write on Jordan’s report card that he is promoted to sixth grade. He shouldn’t be promoted to sixth grade. He hasn’t done the work at fifth grade. He reads at a third grade level. He’s not ready for sixth grade. Yet, I’m not allowed to make the decision that this child needs a second chance at fifth grade. I have to promote him because it might hurt him emotionally to not be with his friends.
I’ve had other students like Jordan before – students who miss a third of the school year, students who don’t try because they’re so far behind as it is, and students who never do the assignments.
Elementary students don’t know that school policy bans retention. Some will work harder to make sure they’re promoted. But they’re going to figure it out next year when Jordan shows up in sixth grade. Lesson: Showing up and doing the work doesn’t matter.
A high school teacher was amazed and appalled to learn that everybody passes in elementary school. It did explain why her high school students were so surprised when they had to repeat a class they’d failed.
I wonder if the decision to promote elementary students, regardless of their knowledge and skills, has been worth it? We know this decision isn’t a cure-all for low self-esteem, because these students know they’re behind. Do they “catch up” in middle school and high school?
Usually, they have to repeat ninth grade. Then they drop out.