<strong>What is the impact of social promotion to students when they get to high school?</strong>

Published on April 9, 2014

By Carmelita Roberts

Social promotion has been an ongoing solution for Prince Edward Island's struggling students from K- Grade 9.  But is placing students, who did not meet the academic standard, into the next grade level, really fair to them? Coming from one student's perspective, the consequences are more detrimental than beneficial.

When students only advance to the next grade because of social promotion, they risk repeating bad habits and falling behind even more. Yes, at first, those students may feel happy to be with their peers, however, when work catches up with them, they become overwhelmed. Dealing with the challenge to keep up academically with the rest of their grade could cause a negative school experience. Also, if children are placed in the succeeding grade without being required to complete the necessary amount of homework or study, they could lose the value in work ethic. That could be very damaging for them once they get to high school and possibly even more so into the future.                                                                       

Furthermore, social promotion creates false confidence in those students who actually feel they are prepared for higher education. As they fly through junior high, kids might think they meet the requirements for academic courses in high school and then after getting to high school, feel defeated once they realize they cannot grasp the concepts. On the other hand, if grade retention existed in junior high, students who fall behind could come to the honest realization that they might excel better in general courses and this could result in a positive experience. A student’s realization about their potential, real strengths and interests helps them make decisions and choices that will enhance their future. Social promotion that gets some students from kindergarten to high school only to realize they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, is not what education is all about.

 In some ways, social promotion might encourage the fear of failure. If a person has to repeat a subject in high school, for the first time, it could be embarrassing for them and cause them to give up. Whereas, enforcement of grade retention in primary and junior high schools, might be more opt for students to embrace the opportunity to open their minds and improve their skills. Honest and fair assessments inform students where they stack up, and pretending they know what they don’t is not helping them prepare for their future. Alternative solutions that help such students identify and support their unique needs, as well as strengths, is something that should be taken action on.

By Hannah McGaughey

It is my opinion that, overall, social promotion (the practice of promoting a student to the next grade level despite failure to obtain the required passing level) causes more harm than good. However, I feel that social promotion could be used in beneficial ways depending on the situation.

I am a strong advocate that one does not need to receive extremely high grades during school in order to be a successful person later on in life. However, it is a fact that in high school if you fail a course you will not receive a credit for it; social promotion does not prepare students for this. However, I do not think it is right to make a child feel like a failure simply because they are having difficult times understanding concepts such as addition or spelling and other subjects that are focused on heavily in elementary school where most social promotion takes place. So, if failing is not the answer and social promotion is not either, than what is?

I feel that when young students begin showing signs that they are having difficulty with a concept, action should be taken to help them immediately. If the problem is fixed before it progresses any further, it will be less likely for said issue to possibly be the thing which causes a student to receive a failing grade. If students do not receive the assistance they need from a young age and continue to struggle yet still are promoted to the next grade level, they will eventually be stuck in a rut which may make high school a much bigger challenge than it should be. However, every situation is different and I feel it should be left up to parents and teachers to make the decision whether social promotion will be beneficial to a child or not.

By Stephanie Cairns

Social promotion (the act of passing a child to the next grade level despite not having filled all of the requirements) is a widespread practice across North America, and like almost anything to do with educating our children, is also extremely controversial. There’s no question that our education system is highly flawed, but whether social promotion plays a part in that inherent wrongness is hotly debated. Social promotion, as evidenced by its name, puts the primary focus on the child’s social well being. The argument is simple: holding a child back lowers their self-esteem and inhibits their social interactions with children their own age. The pro-retention supporters see things a little differently. They argue that passing a child to the next level when they have not sufficiently understood or grasped the concepts such as basic reading or mathematics will only hinder them in the long run, once again leading to lower self-esteem. They believe passing to the next grade should be a reward, and the fear of failing will push students into trying harder and succeeding. Both sides of the debate are partially right, but both sides are also very wrong.

   The two arguments hinge on a limited understanding of children’s psychology. Will a five year old truly be traumatized if he is held back a year? Will an eight year old be motivated to ‘work harder’ because of the threat of failure hanging over her head? And if she does ‘work harder’, will it really change the outcome of her grades when she is simply not able, at that point in her development, to comprehend the material presented?

   Then there’s the presence of ADHD, ADD, dyslexia; the list goes on. How do these factor into social promotion? And in the long run, will being held back or pushed forward while in kindergarten, really make such a crucial difference when that child becomes a teenager, a college student, a full-blown adult?

   Honestly, I don’t know, and I’m not sure we ever will. But one thing is for sure, children are all different, and while social promotion might work for Emma, it might not work for Emily or Emmett. No arguments that bases themselves off of the ‘social well being’ of children are ever going to be 100%, but they’re the only ones we’ve got, so let’s keep debating, keep thinking critically and deeply, and maybe one day we’ll have a school system that will cater to every single one of our children. Or at the very least, will let us finally beat Europe at those pesky excellence tests.

Need to teach the right lesson

By Jon Anderson

In the first nine years of my education I didn’t have any problems with school and I assumed High School would be no problems.  I couldn’t have been any further from the truth, when I entered high school it was a different world.  Things that were considered final projects in middle school were now just average end of the month projects.  Of course I adjusted and got used to the work load but there were people who didn’t fell behind.  I go to Morell High so this caused a problem as the school is grades nine to twelve so those people who fell way behind still couldn’t fail.  The next year when people fell behind they got bad marks and eventually failed.

At the time I never thought it was strange that people who didn’t work still passed, but now when I think about it I find it unfair.  Does somebody who doesn’t do any work and ignores everything everyday deserve to pass?  In other provinces they say it’s not so they fail students and eventually they smarten up and do better.  This would give students a better chance to learn the basics they need for further on and prepare them more for standardized testing.   In turn this would help a student meet deadlines which is all too important in the future. 

When a child learns something young it sticks with them, so if you teach a kid that hard work isn’t important that sticks with them.  They will grow up to get jobs that they won’t work hard at because they don’t know the value of hard work they won’t try.  This tells us we need to teach kids how the real world punishes us or they won’t learn.

Social Promotion

By Sydney Huizing

Some people think that social promotion, or the idea that a student is being sent on to the next grade regardless of if they have fully retained everything that they have learned, is the result of PEI being known for as the province that ranks lower than average in education. I don’t believe that is necessarily true.

Social Promotion definitely has a part to play in the provinces bad education, but I also think that it has to do with the fact that school isn’t taken very seriously. A majority of students just go through school so that they can make it out of high school. These kids look at school like it is a joke. Students are not very motivated at school.

Along with this I feel like the amount of school days missed affects students as well. It takes kids a week or so to get back into a good routine at school after summer, Christmas, and spring vacation. We just missed almost two full weeks from school other than two days in between because of March break and the storm days. In most other places around the country or even at a school I have been to before, only two of those days would have been taken as storm days: the two days that actually had the major storms.

Not only that but students also may feel like some classes are just boring, which makes it hard to motivate kids to invest in those classes. If kids have boring classes, it is hard for them to pay attention as well as remember information taught.

My suggestion would be to have less storm days that are not necessary. Also, if teachers used different ways to make their classes more exciting then students might be more motivated for school. Teachers could do activities like use interesting hands on examples for students; get the kids involved in the lesson they are teaching, or even go on a field trip. If kids are more motivated then they might actually care about school and their grades. As a result, grade averages would definitely go up a little.

By Valerie Duguay

Social promotion is something that happens often in school programs in Prince Edward Island, where the school allows you to go along with your friends in middle school when you should've been held back.

In my opinion, that's a bad thing. Schools are supposed to help you get a good education and help you learn but when you do have difficulties in school and it keeps getting harder, it might be hard to pass your classes when you're in high school. From experience, I wish I would have been held back a year to make sure I understood everything before needing to learn more difficult things. Schools should help you in the long run of life and not just make you happy with your friends for the short time of your life that you're there.

By Shandi Cameron

To me, the idea of socially promoting students though school is wrong. It’s a quick fix that can end up dramatically affecting them later on. We shouldn’t be allowing students to get promoted to the next grade without meeting the requirements. Would we allow a doctor to graduate from med school without knowing the basics? The answer is obvious, so why would we let children from K-9 get through school without knowing the essential things they need to know to get through the rest of their schooling? If we send out the message “if you don’t try, you’ll still get to go on to the next grade” what does that say? That if you don’t try, that it’s okay? When a student walks into the doors of high school after being promoted when they experienced difficulty, they will more than likely feel overwhelmed by the things that high school expects from students. I think that it would be in the student’s best interest to be prepared for high school by being taught that as the years go on; the courses get harder and you need to do your very best so you can make an easy transition into high school. When you get to high school if you don’t pass, you fail and that concept would become scary and stressful for someone who wasn’t used to that. Students that don’t meet the learning expectations should be held back until they know the things that they need because it would be better to be prepared for high school than not. I don’t think it's right to be leading children into situations they aren’t ready for so, we need to make the smart decision to help them at a young age and keep them placed in their current grade until they are ready to advance and make sure that they are equipped with the necessary knowledge to succeed.

By Riley DesRoches

Social promotion makes sense for Prince Edward Island: as a whole we are fairly close knit because of the size of our communities. That being said, i do not think social promotion is an appropriate way to handle a child's inadequacy. I went to a very small elementary school, i shared a classroom for nine years with people, and over that time we obviously become very close; how many kids can say they knew every classmate on a personnel basis up until high school? Not many. But those who were sent on just because being held back would mean a lot of embarrassment are most definitely feeling the effects in high school.

You should not have what you did not earn; it creates a terrible precedent in young minds. Students need a solid base before they can learn harder aspects of a subject, otherwise they will always be one step behind all the other students; and that is a recipe for failure. We should be expected to meet outcomes and face consequences if we do not; it’s how the world works; and it is how high school works, so why not elementary and junior high?

Are students who benefited (or suffered from) social promotion the sole cause behind our province placing last in Canada for reading, math and science scores? No, but giving someone a “get out of jail free” card doesn’t teach them anything. It is a 180 degree turn from what, in high school and adulthood everyone should understand; you do not get what you do not earn, and that is what many people might consider our generations’ greatest handicap.

By Kelsey Young

          Friends are an important part of everyday life; they make you feel wanted and loved. Surely it would be cruel to wrench a young child away from their friends by holding them back a year so they can meet the necessary outcomes for their grade. What's a worse fate, having to make new friends or quite possibly being set up for failure in the coming years?

Social promotion is far from ideal, but it's not all bad. It saves the child from feeling bad about themselves, if not passing is their fault, but this is not the only situation involved. For a child who simply doesn't try hard enough or refuses to, it sends a bad message. No need to try, I'll pass no matter what. If a child is promoted and they later start to drown under the pressure of school work, the blame does not rest on their shoulders alone. It is unfair to send them to the next grade knowing full well that they didn't pass the previous one and it hardly inspires a sense of pride in a child.

Not being ready for the next grade, whether in knowledge or work ethic is inviting failure at the high school level. Having the skills but not being willing to work or vice versa in high school is not a recipe for success. Social promotion does no favour to those who are continually promoted.

With so many students moving to other provinces to attend universities and petty adolescent fights, it's unlikely that being separated from their social group would have a huge impact on a child. Real friends don't just disappear. The real hardship students’ face due to social promotion is being blindsided by what lay ahead of them once they get to high school, but at least they've still got their friends.