An ‘F’ for Social Promotion

Education, Michael Zwaagstra, Publications

Executive Summary

Social promotion is the practice of advancing students to the next grade even if they have not met the academic requirements of their current year. Generally, advocates of social promotion focus on the problems they associate with grade retention or repetition.

• The argument for social promotion rests primarily upon the claim that students kept behind end up worse off academically and emotionally than those socially promoted.

Despite the widespread use of social promotion in North American schools, there are good reasons to question this practice.

• Social promotion leads to graduates who lack the necessary knowledge and skills for academic success.

• Social promotion results in signifi cant ability disparities among students in individual classrooms.

• Many of the criticisms leveled at grade retention (i.e., higher dropout rates and damage to self-esteem) apply to social promotion.

• The negative effects of grade retention have been exaggerated.

• Social promotion has a negative effect on student motivation.

The practice of promoting students without suffi cient regard to academic ability or achievement needs to end. There are circumstances where students will benefi t from extra time in a particular grade or course.

View Entire Study (9 pages)