Retention – Social Promotion

Most parents expect their child to pass from one grade to the next with their classmates. Passing is also known as promotion, and repeating a grade is often called retention.

Which is a better idea “social promotion” or “repeating a grade”?

Social promotion is when students are passed from grade to grade with peers even if they have not met academic or performance standards expected of that grade.

It’s important to understand the reason retention might be suggested (relocation, extended illness). If a student repeats a grade, it is hard to expect a better outcome if there is no change in the academic content or the way the student is taught.

What can be done to prevent this from happening again next year?

Parents need to ask “What will be done differently next year?” It’s also important to understand progress monitoring so the student isn’t in the same position at the end of next year. Other questions a parent may ask: What was missing in the IEP that allowed the child to not make adequate progress to be promoted? How do we pinpoint the breakdown in the learning process? What about extended school year?

What does the research say?

From U.S. Department of Education (1999)- Social promotion is the practice of passing students along from grade to grade with their peers even if the students have not satisfied academic requirements or met performance standards at key grades. It is called “social” promotion because it is often carried out in the perceived interest of a student’s social and psychological well-being. Research suggests that promoting unprepared students does little to increase their achievement or life chances. At the same time, research also shows that the practice of having students repeat a grade—retention—often has negative educational consequences, such as increasing their chances of dropping out of school.

Are there any rules on retention or social promotion?

Check with your local school for a printed copy of their guidance/rules for repeating a grade.

 Additional resources:

The Effects of Mandatory Retention Reading Rockets
Position Statement on Student Grade Retention and Social Promotion Reading Rockets
Should My Child Repeat A Grade? (Matrix Parents)
Repeating a Grade, Pros and Cons (Great Schools)

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