Ending Social Promotion
So Our Kids Can Learn
This week, I want to clear the air
about the Department of Education's new policy ending the
discredited practice of social promotion—both what
it means, and what it doesn't mean, for the future of our
Starting this year, 3rd graders who haven't yet mastered essential
skills in reading, writing, and math will no longer simply
be passed on to 4th grade. Instead, they'll get immediate,
focused, personal attention from specially trained teachers
to help them learn, both during the rest of this school year,
and also in summer school classes. We've budgeted some $41
million for such instruction.
We chose 3rd grade as the place
to end social promotion for several good reasons. By 4th
grade, students are supposed to move from "learning to read" to "reading to
learn." And if they can't read, they can't learn. As they
get older, the odds against helping students meet demanding
standards get much, much longer. But with kids who are
8 or 9 years old, we've still got a good chance of helping
them succeed—and that's just what we're going to do.
Students who are promoted without
a firm grasp of the basic tools of learning aren't being
done any favors. The City Department of Education's statistics
show that more than 80% of 3rd graders who were working below
grade level in 1999 were still performing well below grade
level four years later, in the 7th grade. Some people call
that social promotion; I call it social demotion. By offering
excuses instead of intervention and early help—by
ignoring problems rather than confronting them—we've
been failing our children. That failure is our city's great
shame, and we're putting an end to it.
Many others agree that we need to
end social promotion. Former President Bill Clinton said "Students are often passed
from grade to grade regardless of whether they have mastered
required material and are academically prepared to do the work
at the next level. This practice is called social promotion.
For many students, the ultimate consequence is that they fall
further and further behind, and leave school ill equipped for
college and lacking the skills needed for employment. This
situation is unacceptable for students, teachers, employers
and taxpayers. That is why I have repeatedly challenged states
and school districts to end social promotions—to require
students to meet rigorous academic standards at key transition
points in their schooling, and to end the practice of promoting
students without regard to how much they have learned. As every
parent knows, students must earn promotion through effort and
achievement, not simply by accumulating time in school."
Former Mayor Giuliani said "We
have to begin imposing standards or students will continue
to fall behind, have unrealistic expectations about life,
and make the education of those around them more difficult.
But ultimately, if a student fails to meet basic grade level
standards by the end of third grade, that student should
have to repeat the third grade."
Some defenders of this failed status
quo have tried to say that we'll be making promotions based
on the results of a single test. That's just not true. We've
established a thorough appeals process. It requires teachers
to evaluate every student who has scored at the lowest level—Level One—in
either reading or math tests. Teachers can overrule test
results if they're not true indications of student skills.
Students invited to attend the new Summer Success Academy
will also have a chance to retake the tests in August.
The State Legislature gave the Mayor
control of the school system so that we could have accountability
the discord and inaction that plagued the old Board of Education.
We've made great strides in many areas. But social promotion
is one the system's most fundamental flaws.
Critics say they want to end social
just not this year. They've been saying that for 20 years.
That inertia has doomed tens of thousands of children to failure.
Enough is enough. Now it's time to pull together and do what's
right for our kids.#