There are concerns that schools are performing an injustice by passing students onto the next grade level although they fail the basic requirements for the current grade level. Underachieving middle school students are being promoted with little regard as to how it may impact their future success in education. It sets the precedence for some students who believe that they do not have to make any effort and they will still move to the next grade without suffering any consequences. This gives the message that accountability in middle schools is unimportant.
The purpose of this research study is to identify and evaluate the effects of social promotion amongst middle school students.
Teachers have encountered many cases in which students should have been retained in the same grade as a result of poor attendance, limited ability, and lack of effort. However, school administrators have granted social promotion to those underachieving students for reasons including inappropriate age and lowering self-esteem. Therefore, this research is significant because it will substantiate the effects of social promotion on academic achievement and adolescent behaviors.
Administrators, teachers, and parents of five middle schools in the South Bend Community School Corporation will utilize a survey instrument to identify the perceptions of social promotion. Approximately 50 middle school teachers, 25 administrators, and 50 parents of middle school students will participate in this research. The parents will be selected randomly and will receive surveys at their homes by mail. A self-addressed, stamped envelope will be included with each survey for parents to reply. Teachers and administrators will be selected randomly and will receive surveys through inter-school mail. Surveys will be distributed during the second semester of the 2002-2003 academic year. A comparison of the results will be conducted using the feedback from the three groups to identify the effects of social promotion.
Review of Related Literature
Methods and Procedures
Statement of the problem
Many concerns exist that schools are performing a great injustice by passing students onto the next grade level that fail the basic requirements for the current grade level. Underachieving middle school students are being promoted with little regard to how it may impact future success in their educational endeavors. This practice sets the precedence for some students as they assume that they do not have to make any effort and they will still move to the next grade without consequence. This establishes a message that accountability in middle schools is unimportant, when in actuality, it is critical to achieve success.
Purpose and Rationale
The purpose of this research study is to identify and evaluate the effects of social promotion among middle school students. This will include social, psychological, and academic factors that are influenced by this practice. The study will also discuss the factors involved in using a variety of alternative techniques to eliminate the use of social promotion as a means of grade advancement.
Administrators, teachers, and parents of five middle schools in the South Bend Community School Corporation will utilize a survey instrument to identify the perceptions of social promotion. Approximately 50 middle school teachers, 25 administrators, and 50 parents of middle school students will participate in the research study. Parents will be selected randomly and will receive surveys by mail at their homes. A self-addressed, stamped envelope will be included with each survey for parents to mail in their responses. Teachers and administrators will be selected randomly and will receive surveys by campus mail. Surveys will be distributed during the second semester of the 2002-2003 academic year. A comparison of the results will be conducted using feedback from the three groups to identify and evaluate the effects of social promotion.
This study is limited to five middle schools in the South Bend area, utilizing a relatively small study sample involving 125 participants. Therefore, the results will not reflect the potential outcomes of a larger population sampling. In addition, the study operates with only one type of instrument, the survey, which may limit the potential outcomes since other instruments also exist that may provide a more accurate measure of the results.
Review of Related Literature
Social promotion is a common practice in schools across the United States. Students are automatically passed from one grade to the next without achieving mastery of the required material and are often unprepared to adequately perform at the next grade level (U.S. Department of Education 1). As a result, many students fall behind and graduate from school unprepared for college and lack the skills necessary to gain employment. It is believed that students should be required to meet rigorous academic standards by making a concerted effort in all schoolwork. Low student achievement should not be hidden by social promotion, and students must gain the academic skills and meet standards as early as possible in their school careers.
Studies have demonstrated that students progress at different levels in their studies. Some students will never meet the high standards that are expected of them, and their place in a mainstream classroom is questionable at best. Deschenes, Cuban, and Tyack state that "The differences between schools and these students can be thought of as a 'mismatch' between the structure of schools and the social, cultural, or economic backgrounds of students identified as problems" (525). For these students, meeting strict academic standards is often impossible, and these students are left on their own to swim in a deep pool of disappointment. Those who do not benefit from the current educational system are not likely to profit from summer school, additional homework, and retention practices. They must receive specialized instruction in another environment where individualized attention will be paid to their specific needs.
Students in middle school grades experience many difficulties beyond their academic pursuits. Typically, they experience the changes associated with puberty and peer pressure is heightened at this stage of life. Academics are often the last thing on a student's mind during this period. Therefore, the importance of academic achievement in the middle school grades must be greatly emphasized at this time. According to Kathy Christie (1), "There is no more frustrating level of education for parents than the middle grades. No other period is so marked with contradictions. Parents who worry about the flashes of anger, belligerence, and unreliability in their adolescent child one moment might be reassured by the compassion, intelligence, and glimpses of maturity in the next...many parents are concerned that middle schools have been so focused on the developmental needs of adolescents that they have made academics secondary." Unfortunately, this reality exists in school districts across the United States, and consequently, students are unprepared to enter high school although their teachers may consider otherwise by promoting them to the next grade. Steps must be taken to evaluate the current standards and system of grade promotion to better prepare students for the challenges ahead.
It has been demonstrated that using standardized tests as a measure of academic achievement also contributes to social promotion. In many instances, the score earned on such a test is the primary method by which grade promotion is achieved, while other significant factors are ignored. The score earned does not provide an accurate assessment of a student's true performance in the classroom. Hartke states that "Test scores should always be buttressed by other relevant information about the student's knowledge and skills, such as grades, teacher recommendation and extenuating circumstances" (23). It is clear that other techniques must be exercised in order to accommodate the necessity and importance of academic standards.
One of the most important factors in preventing failure in school is the importance of learning to read effectively at an early age. According to the Southern Regional Education Board (5), "The fundamental problem with the recent debate over whole language vs. phonics lies in trying to identify one standard program of reading instruction that will work for all students. In fact, any reading program needs to include both phonics instruction and elements of whole language. Some children will master phonics quickly and easily; others will learn to read only if they receive much more intensive phonics instruction than is necessary or desirable for most of their classmates." Students that experience reading problems at an early age are likely to carry those issues into the later grades and will fall further behind their classmates in all subject areas. Therefore, these problems should not be ignored and must be handled without utilizing social promotion as an option. Classrooms are a breeding ground for failure if student problems are not recognized in their early stages.
According to critics, one of the primary causes of social promotion is the existence of the outdated grade structure that exists in the United States. William Romey (632) states that "Given the wide differences in developmental stages of children at any given age, it is ludricrous for schools to use chronological age to place children into groups that move in lock step on yearlong schedules...intellectual development is a continuous process that demands attention to…