Social Promotions Slowly Grinding to a Halt

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/nyregion/24promotion.html?_r=1&hpw

One of the many significant education reforms to happen in the 21st Century would have to include the stoppage of social promotions for students.  Between lowering the bar on the quality of annual spring testing (addressed in a previous blog)  which is reflected  when compared to NAEP results and letting parents believe their child is ‘doing their best work’ seems to have finally caught up with America in the form of where we rank in education across other countries, how many of our students attend college and how many students graduate college.

The veil has been/is in the process of being lifted and it will take a good 10-20 years to see the results. Unfortunately the article cited above is a ‘lagging’ indicator, indicative of events which have happened and how change will be administered going forward.  Sadly it was not enough for parents to know what their children should be able to accomplish by grade level (every state has created a computer and paper view for parents – CA   Science version in teacher talk for parents  http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/documents/sciencebook.doc and  various books such as those by E.D. Hirsch Jr.  are what I am familiar with currently)  both of which seem to be read mostly by helicopter parents.  It was not enough for parents to know their child needed to have basic literacy and some numeracy skills by kindergarden and even well intentioned testing companies with their labels of proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic did not get through to parents their child actually had to do some work to obtain an education.

This is all changing and while Ms. Sweet

Kim Sweet, the director of Advocates for Children of New York, an educational-rights watchdog group, said her organization had received “an extraordinary number of calls” regarding eighth graders who had gotten into high schools they were optimistic about “who now have to go back to the same middle schools that failed them in the first place.” That, Ms. Sweet said, “seems like a complete recipe for failure.”

observes the problem, I am unsure what other answer there may be besides letting students and parents know to get their A game on.  I am not sure the middle schools failed the students so much as their own parents and the system of social promotion so I am thinking Ms. Sweet is talking in a manner to make everyone calm and feel better about a situation long overdue.

Charter schools work diligently at raising test scores and produce detailed reports of the points obtained all the while failing to explain how schools which become charter schools are reconstituted and test scores start from a new baseline, schools obtain more points for students in below and far below basic as they are brought up to proficient, students at charter schools would do well in other settings as their parents understand the value of putting in the effort to obtain an education, as opposed to all the students and parents who pull out of charter schools as the work load and work itself is too difficult.

I suppose teachers should take a hit for promoting students although it is ultimately the decision of administrators and they can be quite compelling when tenure is on the line so teachers are strongly urged/encouraged to pass on students which are clearly lacking in the skills to proceed to the next grade.  Administrators want so much to ‘make nice’ with parents that once the ball is in motion, it is almost impossible to retain a student.  Since there is rarely a summer school program (of which 2 months is not a substantial enough time to result in major change) teachers become the villan (value added analysis of what their teaching does to add to test scores).  

In the end game, it is the parents who neglect their children from the beginning by not promoting literacy, numeracy and behavior appropriate to learning.  It is parents who can not bear for their child to be retained so will do anything to have the child moved to the next grade (ask teachers how many requests they receive at the last month of school for some ‘project’ or ‘assignment’ to give to Johnny or Susie so they can demonstrate they have learned what they need to that year when in fact they hovered at a D or F all year) and it is now the self same parents that need to come to grips and do what it takes to help their student become successful at school.

The day we all became far more concerned about self esteem and less concerned about students working diligently/hard to achieve their learning goals was the moment in time when we fomented the acceptance of failure and social promotion as normal.

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