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

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

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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 stud...


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... likely to fail and help them before it can happen. (Riley, 1999), (Oakes, 1999). Mr. Franczyk, a principal in Chicago, where social promotion has ceased says, “Retention itself does not benefit anyone. But early intervention does, I see it every year.” Evidence for early intervention working is overwhelming. As Alexander, Entwisle, and Dauber put it, the answer to social promotion and retention is intervention policies that ensure that resources are brought to bear to promote successful student learning, especially for those children at risk of failure. (Alexander, 1994) This policy should lower failing rates and help students gain the mastery over the studied material it also shows them that they do not have little worth and that much is expected from them. This policy change address why students fail and changes in those areas are necessary for them to succeed.

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