Social Promotion or Retention?
Finding a Middle Ground Should Start in Middle Schools
Edward was an intelligent but unmotivated 7th grader, and one day, in my frustration, I threatened him with retention. It was a threat I knew would never be carried out. Yet Edward’s response startled me. Calmly, and rather smugly, he replied: “That’s what they told me in 6th grade, and here I am in 7th.”
Edward had figured out the system and, as far as he was concerned, was coasting on easy street. He knew he would pass to the next grade regardless of his level of work. So he did none.
Edward’s case illustrates what is possibly the biggest issue facing middle schools today: What should be done with students who fail? Some districts still enforce a system of grade retention, though many believe that holding a student back causes more harm than good. Numerous studies have shown the negative correlation between retention and high school dropout rates. (Examples can be found from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the National Center for Education Statistics. )
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- Elementary Principal
- Forest Grove School District, Forest Grove, OR
- Princeton Public School District, Princeton, NJ
- Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction
- Lake Forest School District 67 & 115, Lake Forest, IL
- Assistant/Associate Professor, Literacy
- Regis University, Denver, CO
- Director of School Support
- The Achievement Network, Multiple Locations