NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ending Social Promotion Creating Vast Logistical Mess

January 24, 2000

School districts across the country have been ending social promotion of students who flunk their tests. But that well-intentioned policy has created what one Los Angeles schools official calls "a huge logistical problem." Where do the schools -- strapped for classroom space and qualified teachers -- put students who are held back?

  • In the past few years, two dozen major cities have ended social promotions -- and one-third of the states have moved away from the practice.
  • In cities such as Chicago and the District of Columbia -- both of which have long had deeply troubled public schools -- thousands of failing students have been forced into summer school for the first time.
  • Faced with the prospect of flunking several hundred thousand children, the Los Angeles school system has revamped its guidelines so as to hold back only those students who flunk English -- but not those who flunk other core subjects such as math.
  • Had they not relaxed their policy, as many as half of the city's 700,000 students could be forced to repeat a grade, officials estimate.

Los Angeles educators say they are not giving up on eventually ending all social promotions, but that the policy must be implemented piecemeal. Educators in some other parts of the country are arriving at similar conclusions, observers report.

Source: Rene Sanchez, "Los Angeles Lowers Grade Expectations," Washington Post, January 22, 2000.


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