Social Promotion Watch

by Robert Pondiscio
June 30th, 2008

A Georgia law passed in 2001 was supposed to stop social promotion, but state school districts are promoting nearly everyone anyway, “even if they fail a second-chance retest, or blow it off altogether” according to an analysis of 2006 and 2007 state data by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A state law aimed at stopping so-called “social promotion” says students in grades 3, 5 and 8 should repeat the year when they fail certain standardized tests. The findings show state and local educators are balking at enforcing the 2001 law — routinely resorting to an appeals process that allows schools to promote students who never pass the tests.

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox argues that retention “should be a last resort” and defends use of the appeal process, which allows promotion if the principal, parent and teacher agree.  “They’ve used that as the rule rather than the exception,” former Gov. Roy Barnes, who championed the law, tells the AJC. “Did people think that I was not serious?”

Er, apparently so Governor. 

Rarely discussed in social promotion debates is the effect of no-stakes testing and infinite second chances on the empty homily of “high expectations.”  Kids aren’t dummies.  First we narrow the curriculum to prep kids for state tests, then we teach them through our actions that the tests really don’t matter anyway.  The perfect storm of mediocrity. 

Update:  Opinion on the AJC’s Get Schooled blog is strenuously in favor of enforcing the No Social Promotion rule.


  1. There is not much point to the no pass rule if it is not followed.

    Comment by Texas Teacher — July 8, 2008 @ 11:33 am

  2. This sounds just like the state of Florida, or at least our district. I just ran into this situation when one of our eighth grade students failed both district math proficiency tests, the state math test (FCAT), and the NRT math test. We were retaining her based on failing her math benchmarks, as we thought we should with the “No social promotion” legislation passed in the state of Florida. When the district report card came to our school for this student, it showed she had passed all her benchmarks and they were promoting her to 9th grade. I called and said they had made a mistake on her report card and was told no…even though she failed the district profiency test twice, failed the NRT with a 10th percentile…she passed the FCAT math. I advised no, she made a level one on the FCAT and level 3 is considered on grade level and passing. They told me no, as long as she scored a level one she passed…the definition of a level one score, per the FCAT test, is having little or no knowledge of the subject matter. How can this be considered proficient in math? The standards are so low that anyone can pass the benchmarks. The public believes if a student in grade 3, 5, or 8 passes their benchmarks, then they are prepared for the next grade…in reality they are not prepared at all…it is a scam on the public! Social promotion is very much alive in Florida.

    Comment by Florida Charter Teacher — July 10, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  3. If you got paid and promoted even if you did absolutely nothing in your job, would you? Well, most people would not. Most students do not see the need to pay attention, do their homework, and pass tests since no matter what they do, they’ll be promoted to the next grade. Discipline problems in the classroom stem in large part from this simple fact: no matter what the student does, social promotion is the rule.

    Comment by V. Rodriguez — July 10, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  4. Dito!

    Comment by T. Waldvogel — July 12, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

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