The term social promotion has been misused by the corporate supported, fake, public-education reform movement to fool as many people as possible—the same as they have misused the meaning of teacher tenure.
There is no such thing as social promotion in most if not all of the U.S. public schools that leads to an automatic high school (HS) graduation by age 17/18. To think that social promotion in the public schools moves children along as if they were parts on an assembly line is as foolish as thinking that public school teachers have total job protection through tenure and cannot lose their jobs for any reason—of course teachers can be fired. All a school district has to do is prove that the claims of incompetence are true through due process, and due process cases in court against teachers take place annually across America in every state and some are successful.
Social promotion does not mean the student will earn a HS degree, and the system that appears to move children along as if they were on an assembly line was not created by teachers—it was created by legislation and/or public pressure through political correctness such as the parent self-esteem movement that swept the nation for several decades and is still a formidable force. Parents who don’t want their child’s self-esteem to suffer will fight to keep the child moving along with their peers.
But, social promotion doesn’t always mean the child, who falls behind in reading and/or math, is neglected and ignored as they move along from grade to grade.
Most if not all public schools have interventions as long as they have the funding to support those interventions.
The law makes education mandatory from age 5/6 to 17/18, but it doesn’t—until Bill Gates and Obama’s Common Core State Standards interfered with the process—control what the schools can do to re-mediate a child who is falling behind.
For instance, in the district where I taught for thirty years, children who fell behind in reading were assigned to reading labs in lieu of electives. If the child continued to fall behind, they might be assigned to two sections of a reading lab. The reading labs usually had 20-25 students with a teacher and an adult assistant. Children who were reading close to, on, or above grade level would not be scheduled into a reading lab. Reading specialists and reading labs may be found in most elementary, middle and high schools as long as the money is there to fund these resources.
The district where I taught also offered after school tutoring—for the children who needed it most—and parents and students were counseled and advised to attend, but after mandatory school hours, attending the tutoring, night classes or summer school classes was voluntary and many of these children, who needed this remedial help the most, didn’t take advantage of what was offered, and that was usually due to lack of parent support.
For children with special needs, there was also special education classes with teachers who were trained specialists certificated in that area, and individualized instruction was offered for each of these students. The special education teachers worked with the mainstream classroom teachers in other subjects to create individualized plans that would focus on improving the areas where these children needed the most help.
For most of the years I taught, I also taught summer school to children who needed to make up classes they had failed or to improve their reading skills. Summer school was not mandatory, and for that reason, on the first day of summer school, my class loads would start out with 50 – 60 students, but by the end of the first week, that number would be cut in half as students decided to leave and not return. By the end of summer school, it was common to have less than twenty students and closer to ten in a class.
Social promotion does not equal an automatic HS graduation. Students must still pass the required classes, earn the required number of credits/units and, in about half of the states including California where I taught, pass a competency exam that indicates the student has the minimum skills in English, math and maybe science to qualify for HS graduation. In California, students who failed all or a portion of the competency exam as early as tenth grade would be encouraged to enroll in summer school classes designed to help the student to catch up and pass the competency exam before on-time graduation at age 17/18.
If students, for instance, failed 9th grade English, they would still move on to 10th grade English the next year, but counselors would advise the students to catch up in the summer by taking the 9th grade English class a second or third time, or to take night classes at the local community college to make up any failed classes that were required for HS graduation.
Every year at the high school where I taught for the last 16 years of my 30 year teaching career, there were always seniors who reached the 12th grade deficient in units, and it was up to them to retake the classes they had failed before graduation in June. Those who did not were told they could finish high school late by taking classes at the local community college.
This explains why the on-time HS graduation rate is about 80%, but by age twenty-five, 90% of Americans have earned a HS degree or its equivalent. And the 10% (about 24 million) of adult Americans that never earned a HS degree or its equivalent, well, it was their choice not to take advantage of every effort that was offered to them every step of the way.
In the United States, it is mandatory that a child stay in school to age 18 (it’s possible to drop out at 16 with permission), but, for a number of reasons, it would be wrong to keep a child in grade school until they turned 18 just because they were reading below grade level and made little or no effort to catch up. I’m sure most parents wouldn’t want their six-year old in the same classroom sitting next to a hormonal raging sixteen year old, who, for whatever reason, just didn’t qualify to move on according to some test.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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