I really take issue with the fact that the writer of this piece opposes efforts to end social promotion. Social promotion is a big problem in many schools.
----anon comment on my post the other day Unsocialized Promotion
Anon missed the point. But then again this is the August doldrums and I probably wasn't too clear.
The point of that piece was that these are phony attempts to end social promotion and in fact under BloomKlein social promotion has soared through credit recovery, cheating, easy tests, drive by diplomas and all the other goodies that come with the mayoral control package which politicizes education.
The claims that somehow schools before BloomKlein were engaging in massive social promotion based on my experiences and contacts was simply not true.
As a self-contained classroom elementary school teacher during those years 1969-1985 I saw all aspects of the situation. My school only had social promotion in the graduating grade so 6th graders weren't left behind except for special situations. But in all cases, the policy was to hold them back at least once before they got to 6th grade. Sometimes they were left back twice.
Now I know there are people who say twice is not enough. How do you keep a kid who would be an 8th grader in a class of 5th graders forever if necessary? Anyone who works in a school knows that is insane.
All research as Leonie Haimson points out (The Mayor commits educational malpractice, once again) shows that holding kids over doesn't work in most cases and does more harm. So the case can be made that holding kids back at all is counterproductive. But I don't go that far and do believe some kids need more time.
The solution, given the rigid school structure we have, is to target kids behind and do what is necessary to bring them up. If they are resistant to doing any work or anything to help themselves I don't have easy answers. Sometimes leaving them back has the effect of throwing water in their faces - I had a few in the 5th grade that ended back in my class the next year and did mature in that way and the extra year made a difference.
The problem is we are locked into a graded system. From my earliest years I was against putting kids in grades as opposed to multi-graded clusters where there was a mixture of kids over a few grades and older kids could teach younger ones. Naturally, a class of this nature can be unteachable. So the 2nd part of my progressive reform movement (contrary to critics, we have never been status quoers) would be to put around 100 multi-graded kids in a cluster with about 6 teachers who would stay with them for 3 years. More another time.
The BloomKlein extension of decision making on whether kids should be left back in the 4th and 6th grades moves that choice away from the school level. I've always been for the teacher – at least those with some experience (I know, I know, they barely exist).
I used to fight my own principal over her taking the basic decision making out of the hands of the teachers and making a blanket school policy for all that override the judgements of the teachers who worked most closely with the kids. Before she took over, we used to meet with out AP and be able to fight for the kids we felt holding over would not help. She took over in 1978 and instituted many of the test prep stuff we are seeing today and even went so far as to dictate what materials we could use in our classrooms.
I look at that as the beginning of the end for my sense of control over my classroom and it eventually led to my no longer wanting to teach self-contained classes, the true grunt work of teaching. Thus, in many ways me real teaching career ended in 1985, after which I became a cluster teacher. I never regained that passion or sense of involvement I had for the 16 self-contained classes I taught. (That experience is the reason Ed Notes was first out of the box in the UFT in 1996 talking about the evils of high stakes testing.)
The point is that the decision should be made at the teacher/school level, not by a dumb politically motivated policy by the mayor.