Monday, October 11, 2010

Social Promotion in the HighSchool

Joanne has this piece about colleges bemoaning remedial classes which the students can't seem to get out of.

Not surprisingly, someone wants to blame social promotion in k-12.

"K-12 schools need to stop the conveyor-belt approach that moves kids from grade to grade without ensuring that REAL grade-level knowledge has been mastered. ... Require a certain score for MS and HS entry."
"So…why isn’t the K-12 system held responsible for educating these kids?"
"It’s time to hold both k-12 systems and their students accountable for real academic achievement. Being able to pass along their problems to CCs doesn’t do that."

Before we go all out blaming the K-12 educational system, which is required to teach and deal with all students … can we ask a question of the colleges?  Why did they accept the student who they knew wasn’t properly prepared?

Social promotion will always occur in high and middle school because the students are required to be there. That requirement means that some students who are not in any way willing to work and who are often violently opposed to cooperating and learning, are still in your system, still behind their age cohort.

If you simply end all social promotion with no alternatives, then this kid stays at the 7th grade level until he (most often he) is old enough to drop out. Until that time, he is quite willing to disrupt the education of the 11 and 12 year olds around him. In fact, it may be the only time in his life when he is able to completely dominate everyone around him and be a virtual dictator of the schoolyard.

Social promotion is a lousy option but it beats that situation hands down. Certainly the father of the 11 yo girl agrees. Certainly the teachers agree. So do all the other students and so does the kid himself. 

Requiring a certain score on a test merely means that you will have plenty of kids fail to reach it and are "retained" - how's that working out for anyone who's tried it?  Not particularly well.

15 year olds should not be taught the same material as 11 year olds. They learn differently, respond differently, behave differently and are different. If people don’t understand that, too bad.

College students have options – withdrawing from college, getting a job, etc. They are adults. they are fully capable of deciding that remedial classes are not for them and working harder or changing major or quitting.


  1. My college accepted them because we are an open-enrollment school.

    Others accept them because they are fairly good at multiple choice tests and did well enough on the SAT or the ACT or the Compass.

    They shouldn't be at college, but once they have been accepted, should we tell them they aren't college material?

  2. Why not tell them they aren't college material? If you really don't consider them to be college material, then what are you doing collecting their tuition money? Or does the school simply take it until the kid figures it out on his own or otherwise gives up?

    I wouldn't have a problem if you told the kid at the end of the first semester, "Understand a few things ... we'll happily teach you but it'll be in remedial courses. Your choice to continue but we're just being truthful here."