Social promotion is the scourge of public education today. The fact is we are simply passing our kids on up the ladder whether or not they have demonstrated any sort of comprehension of the subject matter they are supposed to have learned in the class/course/grade level in which they are enrolled. This folly creates a ripple effect of domino-like failure because most of our education system is predicated on knowing what comes before in order to be able to succeed now and thereby prosper later.
For example, when kids don’t learn their multiplication tables it becomes almost impossible to do their algebra. Without their algebra, they can’t do geometry. Without geometry, they can’t pass high stakes tests like the California High School Exit Exam… so then they can’t earn their high school diploma.
Obviously, we need to stop stop the students from moving up the ladder — before they take the exit exam, before they enroll in geometry, before they take algebra — and ensure that they know their foundational skills like multiplication tables before the ensuing calamity befalls them when they are teenagers.
Thus we need gatekeeping checkpoints. I mean, if a students does not possess a certain minimum level of aptitude in specific subject matters, it’s ridiculous to move them up in the system because we are simply setting the kids up to fail.
I think we need checkpoints before students enter school in grade 1 (so we can assess their aptitude before they even enter school to determine whether they can write their name, read, and so on. I mean some kids come in ready to read chapter books and some kids come in lacking the ability to recognize sight words — the difference is HUGE and if we continue to toss them all in the same class when their needs are so drastically different, we are feeding the social promotion monster right out of the gate).
Then we need checkpoints at grade 4, grade 8 and grade 12. (Well, grade 12 are already in place, dysfunctional as they may be in so many places — but don’t get me started on bubble tests. The assessments we need also have a need… to be re-imagined, but that’s for a different blog post.)
Sadly, however, the fact is that public education is in such general disarray that we’d be retaining too many kids at the lower levels with a checkpoint system and adults in policy circles all over the U.S. quake at the idea of eventually having 16 year old boys in classes with 12 year old girls as this system would seem to create. So since we can’t handle the volume of kids who need to be retained, re-taught, worked with some more because they learn at a different pace through a different modality, perhaps, we simply pass them on up with an F on their record.
Hello, social promotion. I mean what if NASA allowed their pilots to fly rocket ships without being able to even get a crop-duster off the ground. There’d be crashes everywhere and people would be screaming STOP, you freakin’ fools. Lives are being destroyed because of this nonsense.
Now don’t get me started on how we also pass these kids up with feelings of incompetence, low academic self-esteem and an attitude of why bother to even try because I’m too stupid to learn this stuff anyway. Even though they are failing our classes, we are teaching them things, that’s for sure. And the things we are teaching them emotionally hurt. (And we wonder why the kids act out?)
Yes, our problems are complicated problems, that’s for sure. But until someone puts a stop to the nonsense that is social promotion the entire system is going to continue to buckle. After all, a house built on a weak, pathetic foundation simply will not stand.
We need gatekeeping checkpoints. And considering that I proctored state tests today whereby kids all over my school were being asked to solve problems about Y intercepts, linear inequalities and quadratic equations on a graph with sloping, curving lines — and this is on the Algebra I test — is there any wonder that the chances of my school doing well this year are diminished by the fact that so many of our students struggle with things like long division and quickly decipher things like the answer to 9 x 7? Yet when they were struggling, when their teachers saw that they did not know the material, when years ago the educators knew that, “Hey kid, if you don’t get this, there’s no way that you are going to get that later on,” where were our policy makers then?
Why is it that common sense is so uncommon in our schools?
No one climbs a ladder without being able to step up from a prior rung.