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Essay/Term paper: Soical promotion in education today

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Sociology Essays

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Amanda Ellington
Dr. Cotton
English Comp.
March 31, 1999
Social Promotion an evil in this Society
Johnny is a fifth grade student who is almost ready to graduate and move on to the sixth grade. Johnny however, can not multiply or divide. He cannot spell or read. Johnny fell behind in the third grade. His teacher overlooked his failure and promoted him so that he would not be held up socially. Johnny's fourth grade teacher promoted him to fifth grade hoping that he would catch up with his classmates. Johnny is now about to enter the sixth grade with the educational skills of a second grader.
The situation described above is called social promotion. It is the process of moving children through grades regardless of learning or skill. For years it has been the common practice in education to move " students from grade to grade because of chronological age" (Mitzel 468). Students should have an adequate education in order to be equipped for the twenty- first and twenty-second century. The injustice of social promotion should be ended and society must discover the best route to achieve genuine student success.
"Students who are socially promoted have no skills for life. The number of social promotions each year nears two million" (American Federation Teachers). Social Promotion shows children that no matter what grade they achieve they will be promoted. This creates two problems. Students will not work to achieve; laziness is created in children. Second, the students who work hard and learn the material are often overlooked so that a teacher may help a student who is behind because of social promotion.
Social promotion was brought to the attention of the country when President Clinton gave his State of the Union Address in 1999. In this address he stated many educational goals such as a mandatory third grade reading goal and the reformation of the school system in order to equip it for the twenty -first centuries. Along these same lines the President has called an end to social promotion. President Clinton proposed not just to hold back failing students but to do something about their failure. Such as remedial classrooms, identifying weakness before it is too late, strengthening learning opportunities and placing strong well-trained teachers in classrooms (Galston 35).
If a student was asked in the nineteenth century what grade she or he was in they would probably say something along the lines of, "I sit in the fifth row" or "I have a blue reading book"(Mitzel 450). There were no grade levels, which is most likely where social promotion found its roots. Although Social Promotion is a newly arising concern today: it has a long history. The process of promoting students no matter what their academic success has been the standard in education thus far. For example in Chicago alone more than 40,000 children … failed standardized tests" (Berg A2).
Why are student allowed to slip though the fingers of education? "For one thing it is easier to promote the student from grade to grade than it is to deal seriously with that students learning problem" (Economist 33). This is the main reason for social promotion. It is the theory of "if it isn't looked at then it isn't there." Teachers and administrators do not want to accept failure on their own parts or the students. "This is a case where the educational needs of children take a back seat to administrative convenience" (Economist 34). Students keep getting promoted to the next grade without the knowledge necessary to survive. Often it is thought that if a student is promoted then they will catch up in the following grade. This sets the next class behind because it is filled with some students who have the skills and some that do not and should not be in that specific grade level. The next teacher is at a loss for what level to teach, should they teach down at the non-skilled students and risk losing the other students attention? "Social Promotion [occurs] to avoid damaging their self-worth, then to assume that the child will catch up in later grades
(McCormick 27)." Administrators and teachers do not want to impair students self esteem by holding them back. Holding children back is thought to create embarrassment and low self worth in students. Children are often made to think less of themselves when made to repeat a grade, should we however combat this with telling a student that no matter their work or effort they will be promoted? How will this increase self esteem? Mrs. Crew, a fifth grade teacher, does not let one child leave her class due to social promotion, she says "This is not about being punitive with kids, ...this is about caring so much about children that you will not let them fail" (McCormick 27). This is the way to produce high self-esteem in students. Let them know their success is cared about. There are many reasons to justify Social Promotion but none of them really make sense in the long run.
"We are giving educators a pass for lack of performance --and we are putting kids on the street with pieces of paper that are essentially worthless..." (Toch 59). Each year young adults graduate from high school, and have no skills to maintain a job. The remedial training required by companies for these graduates in subjects like Math and English are outrageous. " More than twenty percent of all businesses provide remedial training for high-school graduates, at an annual cost of billions" (Galston 35). Doing something about the failure ahead of time is more reasonable than socially promoting students until graduation. "In the heat of the promotion versus non-promotion debate, the dropout rate is often not considered" (Mitzel 468). Social promotion causes a high drop out rate. This theory lies behind Social Promotion, students that are held back more than once then they are most likely to drop out all together. However this has been proven false. If students are promoted with out learning the material they will become frustrated and therefore drop out later in their school careers. The second case is five percent more likely to occur than the first.
It is not good enough to just end Social Promotion by retaining students in their failing grades. Creating "a new set of rules about how students progress from grade to grade will not address the underlying problem, nor stop the policy seesaw between retention and promotion"(GII). Students must be made to attend remedial training, summer school, pass exit exams and maintain a 2.0 GPA or above. "Advancing students from grade to grade almost regardless of their level of learning" (Toch 52) must be ended. Remedial training is the process of extending learning hours for students who need the extra help. This is often called Remedial Purgatory; students in Chicago are often placed in this kind of learning environment when their scores on exit exams are low (Berg A1). Summer school as it is now, is not going to help failing students. Some feel that "summer school, a misguided effort to rescue socially promoted students, has also provided an incredible disincentive to work" (General Internet Inc.). Teachers need to spend time with their summer school students not just make them repeat the material that hey have already failed to learn, this must be an opportunity to teach these students in a different way. Finally there must be defined "grade level performance" therefore students should be tested upon exiting a grade, even in elementary school. "Students must be rewarded for their work Social promotion breaks down the school atmosphere. However, simply sending students to summer school and/or holding them back a grade may not be the answer either. Standards and policies must be set to intensive with failing students learning problems (American Federation of Teachers)."
It is clear that Social Promotion is unjust to both successful and failing students. These alternatives to Social promotion must be explored and immediately put into effect. The education system must no longer promote students unto failure. State educators must take action. There is no long an excuse to look over Social promotion. Changes have already been made in both Illinois and California; it is time that the rest of the nation realizes the need for this change and takes charge. America is proclaimed the most advanced nation in the world and we are putting our future in the hands of social promotion. Society needs to answer the Presidents plea "help us end social promotion" (Rothsten 95). This can be done by the remedies described above but also there must be "more accountability from everyone involved in education …[in order] to make children more successful" (Berg A2).
Johnny is a fifth grade student, who in third grade did not grasp the basics of multiplication and division. Johnny's teacher saw this and was determined not to let Johnny leave her class with out the skills to survive the fourth grade. Johnny did very well in the fourth grade, due to the hard work he and his third grade teacher put in to the material. Now Johnny is graduating elementary school and moving on to the sixth grade with the skills of a fifth grader.

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