[Note: The following note was received, along with a response to it by Ms. Sheryl McCoy, consequent to my earlier posting regarding social promotion -- for your information.] ****************************************************
My boss passed me a note on a legislative update (no date or issue number) that spoke of fiscal 2000 appropriations. It states in general that President Clinton asked lawmakers to increase:
. title I funding by $320 million (making a total of nearly 8 billion dollars); . class-size reduction funding by $200 million (making 1.4 billion dollars); . after-school funding by $400 million (making it 600 million dollars) and targeting the after school money to school ending social promotion.
My boss then asked me the following questions:
. What is meant by targeting schools that end social promotion? (I assume this is the practice of promoting a youth based on age rather than the skills learned to pass) . Is the funding targeting after-school a separate source or is it added to the 21st CCLC funds.
Thanks for your help on this one, if you choose to respond.
Dear Ms. __________:
I want to commend your boss, whoever he or she is. It is a wise educator who looks for inspiration among the ranks of teachers. I would think that parents might also have some appropriate input on this subject.
I know you had several questions, but I will respond to one at a time In response to your question about eliminating "social promotion". I, along with a majority of my fellow thinking teachers, agree that THE SCHOOLS THAT NEED TO RETAIN A STUDENT HAVE THEMSELVES FAILED. YES, THE ADMINISTRATION, THE COMMUNITY AND THE DISTRICT HAVE FAILED TO FILL THE NEEDS OF THE STUDENT WHO IS BEING RETAINED.
Before we ask students to get better, we should look at textbooks filled with incorrect and misleading information. We should, at the state level take full responsibility for encouraging local education units to provide a free and equal education for each student. Encourage higher education to get their students into our local schools earlier in their college education. We must honor teachers who are experienced and well educated, not throw them out for cheaper, low quality new replacements. We must clean up our own act, and politicians must not keep sending unfunded mandates to the local level. We must not ask any child to suffer for our political inadequacies!!!!
Since sending attachments is problematical at the moment, I am sending a copy of Gerald Bracey's report on this very subject. I was notified of this report by Professor Jerry Becker at Southern Illinois University. Many of us, including you and your boss, also have an open forum to discuss the most important issue of children and their education through a thoughtful education organization called Phi Delta Kappa.
Recently, I revisited a powerful article from Kappan, October, 1998 written by Joseph S. Renzulli. I love the title, "A RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL SHIPS: Developing the Gifts and Talents of ALL students". Check it out!
Also, you should read about the gifted sophmores in Massachusetts who recently refused to take the state sponsored so-called standardized test that will be used to determine the future of all Massachusett students, including promotion and high school graduation. One of the students wrote an editorial about their choice just a few weeks ago. While these children are not worried about social promotion, they have concerns that relate to the topic of state controlled testing, individual student value, and determining destiny.
Plus, I don't know why the state of Missouri would want to go along with an obviously, misguided federal plan when your students have outscored many in the United States on the TIMSS test.
I am all in favor of more money, especially for lower classroom numbers, after school enrichment for all, summer school enrichment and reinforcement, etc; BUT, if I were working to protect the interest of the children and families of Missouri, I would insist on very clear information about this particular issue...just what is social promotion? Where is the RESEARCH that proves that it works?
Oftentimes, a politician will make outrageous statements like this: witholding federal money for those states not eliminating social promotion. School programs are not like the Highway programs of the 1980's where the Reagan Administration held back the funds of states until they lowered the speed limit to 55mph. CHILDREN ARE NOT BARS OF SOAP. They will be asked to support us in our old age, and I am afraid we will get what we deserve if we punish children for our mistakes.
For what it is worth, many of our greatest minds, including men like Thomas Alva Edison, were deemed too stupid to learn (at school) when they were little.
Well, here is the Gerald Bracey Report:
From Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency (EDDRA) -- a Gerald Bracey Report on the Condition of Education. See .
Also, in Education Week, June 6, 1999, p. 42. ************************************************
RETENTION IN GRADE FAILS CHILDREN
President Clinton once again calls for an end to "social promotion." If the kids aren't cutting it, hold them back in the same grade. E. J. Dionne worries that retaining children in grade might turn out to be just another gimmick. It is worse. It is a disaster. Given the increasing popularity of using failure as a pedagogical technique (!?), it is important to know this about retaining children in grade: it doesn't work.
Unlike most aspects of education which have contending forces pulling in opposite directions, the body of research on flunking kids speaks with a single voice. One 1991 study reviewed the research literature on 49 educational innovations, calculated their impact on education achievement, and then ranked them in order of power. Retention in grade ranked 49th. It was among the few innovations that actually produced negative results. I recently reviewed and updated this research literature adding studies not available to the 1991 analysis. Nothing has changed.
Why do people think failing kids works? In large part because they are not in a position to conduct a controlled experiment. Teachers and parents usually can see only how retained children fare the next year. They do better--on the same material they did poorly on the first time around. A little better. Few blossom into high achievers. Teachers and parents, watching the children struggle in the second year in the same grade then assume, reasonably, that the children's' situation would have been that much worse had they been promoted. The assumption is reasonable but wrong.
There have been situations in which some children who had low achievement were promoted while other children of the same low achievement were flunked. In those settings, the children who were promoted fared at least as well, usually better than those who were left behind.
Retention is often presented as the only alternative to "social promotion" or promotion for "seat time." In fact, it is nothing more than a way of pretending to do something for a child without actually doing anything. Except make the kid pay with another year in school, surrounded by a group of strangers, all younger than the flunked child. Some have declared that they need the threat of retention to make children work hard in school. The administrators and teachers who make this claim seem not to realize that it is a stunning admission of incompetence. As if they have nothing else in their motivational arsenals.
And, of course, these teachers and administrators--not to mention politicians like Clinton--are left with nothing to say when presented with the school systems of Japan and much of Europe that do not retain--or track--children at all before the differentiated curricula of high school. In international comparisons, these systems score as well or better than the United States on everything except reading where only Finland scores higher--their "social promotion" doesn't damage achievement. When I discussed retention with Danish educators while spending a summer in Denmark, they said they considered retention in grade a barbaric practice, something that would be practiced only by a primitive culture that didn't really like its children.
And it is true that retention has significant negative emotional outcomes in this country. One study found kids rated their fear of retention in grade just behind losing a parent or going blind. Other studies, while not so dramatic, typically find that retained children say they are "upset" or "sad" about it. No study has found that retention does wonders for self esteem.
So what to do for low achieving students? From an analysis of the research data the answer seems to be this: provide these children extra assistance, summer school if need be (something that is a lot less expensive than having the child repeat the same grade the next year), and then promote. Retention in grade is a practice that has no place in any society that thinks of itself as humane, as doing best by its children.
Whenever a district or state proposes tougher rules for retention some folks express concern about the increased cost of retaining lots of children. They should worry. Retaining children greatly increases the probability of their dropping out. The good citizens will get their money back in the short term when the kids leave school before graduating, but pay many times over when these students end up on welfare or in prison.
*** I hope this helps!
Best regards, Sheryl A. McCoy President KS Earth Science Teachers Association 614 North Main Erie, KS 66733 316-244-3282 ****************************************************** * Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org