028 Social Promotion in Education: Does it still have value?

Social promotion in education, you know, is that practice where schools promote students to the next grade based on age instead of mastery. The idea is that keeping kids with their peer group is better for their self-esteem, not to mention promoting students with behavior problems provides some relief to the teacher, knowing that the student who made class crazy won’t be back in their class next year.

The alternative has been retention. The idea is that repeating a grade will let struggling students improve skills that weren’t at grade level. Research, however, doesn’t back up this idea. Instead, retention increased the dropout rate and lowered students’ self-esteem. And though initially, it did boost student performance, the gains didn’t continue over the long haul.

The topic of social promotion is definitely one that needs attention, especially now with the latest NAEP tests. The test results show a dismal loss of student growth due in part to the pandemic.

According to an article in the New York Times, “This year, for the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests began tracking student achievement in the 1970s, 9-year-olds lost ground in math, and scores in reading fell by the largest margin in more than 30 years. “This begs the question, What do we do now? Promote these kids to the next grade, or do we retain them to catch up? I don’t think there’s any one good answer. We just need to figure out what protocols will give students the most bang for the taxpayer’s buck.

Why do we look at 9-year-olds’ scores so closely? Well, they are third graders. That is the year when education makes a massive shift, from learning to read to reading to learn. If students are not at grade level by the end of the third grade, they tend to struggle to catch up, if they catch up at all.

So what’s a teacher to do? This episode discusses what Ed Code and district policies say about retention and social promotion in education. We explore what research is saying and what’s happening in our classes. Then, of course, we explain our suggestions for how to fix this mess.

A new voice joins us in this episode. Welcome, Yvonne, who shares her elementary school teacher perspective. Now we have voices from grades K through 12. Unfortunately, Sharyn was mobile on headphones and left us when her phone died. However, she did get in her usual insightful comments in the beginning.

Again, as always, thank you, dear listeners, for tuning in and sharing our podcast with friends, family, teachers, and others interested in knowing what is really happening in our classrooms. Please rate and review us on your favorite platform, as it does help listeners find us. Leave us a voice comment, and we just might use it on our next show!

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