Published: 19-10-2011, 15:13

Social promotion - American Education

A term from the 1930s and 1940s referring to the advancement of students to the next higher grade in public elementary and secondary schools on the basis of age rather than academic achievement. Designed to mitigate public humiliation because of academic failure, social promotion was largely eliminated by the introduction of ability grouping and tracking. In both cases, students remained in the appropriate grade with their age mates. Thus, elementary school students would remain with their age mates but be taught in slower or faster sections, according to their academic abilities. At the high school level, tracking systems placed students in one of three broad curricular “tracks,” or programs: an academic track for the college-bound, a general track for slower students unlikely to attend college after graduation and a vocational track for students interested in learning skilled trades. Within the academic track, ability grouping saw slower students in “regular” sections of each course, with the more gifted students placed in “honors” classes.

Enactment of federal Goals 2000 legislation and the SCHOOL-TO-WORK OPPORTUNITIES ACT OF 1994 forced many schools to abandon general education in favor of academic and vocational education programs. Most states adopted education reform legislation that required competency testing for promotion to the following grade and for high school graduation. Although such reforms have not eliminated social promotion, the practice has declined substantially in most American public schools in favor of extra tutoring, summer school and special education to assure adequate academic progress for slower students. In 2001, the percent of public school teachers reporting that their schools practiced social promotion had dropped to only 31%, from 41% in 1998.