Pass or Fail: The Final Word
In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.
While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?
It is the contention of this blog series that ending retention, and social promotion are justified by both practical and theoretical considerations. Doing so does, however, also entail ending graded education and standardization. Collectively, these changes require a substantial overhaul of the entire system of public education in the United States as well as the re-education of the vast majority of its stakeholders.
The 6-pronged approach described above provides insight into the most promising plan for replacing retention, social promotion, graded classrooms and standardized tests with a fundamentally more effective educational system. If the stakeholders in the public education system are to be brought on board in support of this plan, the campaign to re-educate them must begin as soon as possible. This plan must emphasize how we have got to the point we are now at in our education system, so that it will be clearer where we might go if we make the changes the plan suggests.
It is time for the public education system to take an honest look at itself. The benefits of our current strategies are negligible. The United States is losing the knowledge and innovation battle and will ultimately lose the war unless reform begins soon. The tragedy of handicapping our children with a clearly second-rate education is all the worse because it is so unnecessary. As a nation, we have the information that justifies the changes outlined in this blog series. As citizens and parents, we also have the duty to provide our children the high-quality education envisaged by our Founding Fathers, and education that stimulates creativity and a love of learning.
Returning to the issues of retention and social promotion, the evidence is overwhelming that both of these strategies damage the children they are supposed to help. They are damaging not only to individual students but also society as a whole. The large-scale, long-term effects of retention are that individuals lose educational opportunities, job opportunities, and opportunities to make cultural and economic contributions to their communities.
Retention and social promotion also represent a tremendous burden on the state. The likelihood of an individual requiring welfare or being unemployed is greatly increased when they are affected by retention or social promotion. And as grave as these consequences are for an individual, they are dwarfed by the crippling effect of a personality stunted by a pernicious educational environment. Because a child who has been held back or socially retained is likely to be inhibited and stunted intellectually and creatively, the public school system really should be considered a clear and present danger to the nation’s future.
Only by acknowledging the harm done by grade retention, graded classrooms, and standardized tests can the American public education system can rise to the challenge of the modern world and provide a world-class education that is free, effective, and fair to all segments of society. Even if the American public education system is not completely transformed, there should at least be a shift in the approach to assessment. American schools should at least put an end to the use of restrictive, standardized testing and the use of retention and social promotion policies.