Positive Sides of Social Promotion in School

The controversy between social promotion and grade retention has a long history in the American school system. Many of the benefits of social promotion are psychologically based and argued to be necessary for the positive emotional well-being of students.

The controversy between social promotion and grade retention has a long history in the American school system. Many of the benefits of social promotion are psychologically based and argued to be necessary for the positive emotional well-being of students.

Social promotion and grade retention are two educational philosophies American schools systems periodically switch between. In both cases, the intended outcome is for students to improve their knowledge and understanding of core curriculum. The difference is the method in which each tries to obtain success for the student.

Grade Retention Verses Social Promotion

Grade retention is the practice of holding a student back a year when he or she fails. Elementary and middle school age children experience this as repeating a grade and not advancing with their class. For high school students it could mean repeating an individual course, such as Algebra, or not being promoted to the next year with their classmates.

Social promotion is the practice of advancing a student to the next grade regardless of successful completion of the curriculum. Elementary and middle school age children do not repeat a grade but advance with their class. High school students graduate in four years whether or not he or she passed any classes.

Benefits of Social Promotion

Social Promotion Positive Effect

The use of social promotion is based on the assumed social and psychological needs of the student. Keeping students with their peer and age group is considered less psychologically damaging than keeping them back a grade. Students are able to continue developing relationships with an established group of friends, which can improve self-esteem during developmental years.

Social promotion is also attributed to lower drop-out rates and lower costs for educating students. Research suggests that when children are promoted with their peers they are more likely to stay in school until graduation. When students are kept back one year or more the costs for their education also increases by several thousand dollars per year kept back (Balanced View).

Risks of Grade Retention

Many of the risks of grade retention support the benefits of social promotion. Some research shows that repeating a grade can double the risk for dropping out, and that students a year or two behind their peers can be stigmatized, resulting in low self-esteem (Balanced View).

Other risks of grade retention are socially and racially based. Some research shows that grade retention increases the risk of emotional and behavioral problems and do not show a noticeable increases in academic success. Other research emphasizes that a majority of students retained are ethnic minorities or from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Hauser). Furthermore, some studies cite that students held back a year could benefit instead from alternative methods of teaching (Social Promotion).

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