Thursday, March 20, 2008
The 8th Grade Social Promotion Problem
The Kleinberg administration has rammed through a vote that stops the social promotion of 8th graders. While I usually disagree with the DOE position. Here, I reluctantly agree that 8th graders should not be automatically promoted to the high schools. As a high school teacher I have seen too many of these not-ready-for-high school 8th graders fail academically and drop out. While I understand that as many as 18,000 8th graders may be "left back". The alternative is worse, social promotion.
Presently, only 1,200 8th graders are not promoted to the high schools. I am shocked that we have that many 8th graders "left back". Why? Because the middle school principals are always trying to push as many not-ready-for-high school 8th graders into the high school, knowing they are unable to academically succeed in the high school setting. Time and again I hear stories from middle school teachers how the principal will pressure them to change failing grades to passing, just to get the student out of the school. The most common statement by the principals is "do you want 17 year old boys with 12 year olds?" Therefore, many of the not-ready-for-high school 8th graders are promoted anyway. Let the high schools handle them.
The supporters of "social promotion" have only themselves to blame for this new policy. Many of these supporters don't see the big picture and insist that with extra help, the students can catch up to their peers. The problem with this outlook is that it is not realistic. Yes, if there was in place an intensive program in a self-contained, small class structure, some of these students may eventually succeed. However, in the real world of the DOE this transitional program does not exist in the high schools, except in special education programs. The transitional program necessary to assist the not-ready-for-high school 8th graders cost money, lots of money and we all know that the DOE will not be funding programs like this anytime soon.
Realistically, the Kleinberg either or proposal pits social promotion supporters against the grade retention groups and since there is no money allocated for the programs necessary to help the not-ready-for-high school 8th graders. I find myself reluctantly agreeing with the DOE in this case. Ugh!