Few States Require Promotion Exams

By Sterling C. Lloyd — January 02, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Trends in Promotion and Exit Exams


SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2008

Nearly ten years ago, in his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Bill Clinton asserted that “it is time to end social promotion in America’s schools.” Social promotion is the practice of moving students from grade to grade with their classmates despite their failure to meet academic standards. It is known as social promotion because it is sometimes motivated by a desire to enhance students’ social lives and self-esteem by keeping them with their same-age peers. However, Clinton contended that “when we promote a child from grade to grade who hasn’t mastered the work, we don’t do that child any favors” (CNN, January 27, 1998). Like-minded policymakers have seen state-mandated assessment policies, including those that call for students to pass a statewide promotion exam to advance to the next grade, as potential tools for combating the practice. This Stat of the Week examines the number of states currently requiring promotion exams and the trend in state adoption of this policy over time.

Few states have mandated exams tied to students’ grade to grade advancement. According to data collected for Education Week’s Quality Counts 2007 report, seven mostly southern states—Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin—require students to pass promotion exams in order to enter the next grade. That number represents a three state increase since 2002. All of these states administer their promotion exams in the eighth grade or earlier. In comparison, the number of states mandating that students pass exit exams in order to earn a standard high school diploma is over three times as high, increasing from 17 to 22 in the same time period. While some policy initiatives may attempt to stop social promotion using strategies that do not involve exams, states have generally been more reluctant to bar low-scoring students from advancing to the next grade than to deny them a high school diploma.

Advocates of promotion exams maintain that they reduce the likelihood that students will be passed along through school without mastering the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in postsecondary education or the workplace. They also believe such exams offer educators the opportunity to provide earlier interventions to struggling students. Critics of promotion exams, on the other hand, point to research showing that students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school, and suggest that remediation programs for students failing the exams are expensive. They further contend that promotion decisions should be based on the input of teachers rather than students’ scores on a single exam. There may be consensus however, that more effective teaching and intervention strategies would help reduce school failure.

For more state-by-state information related to social promotion, please see the EPE Research Center’s Education Counts database.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education Briefly Stated: October 27, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read