In the 2006-07 school year alone, nine in 10 students were moved to the next grade level, but data show that nearly a third of them failed basic courses in English, math, science or social studies. At least 94,000 students failed essential classes during the past six years.Where social promotion exists, I would wager that grade inflation does too.
The analysis confirms what has essentially been an open secret in education for years, what critics call social promotion, and shows it is pervasive throughout Tucson's schools.
The practice is not only causing major academic problems now, but is setting up what could be a major blow to the region's economy.
The underlying problem, experts say, is low student achievement compounded by the lack of concrete promotion policies and systemic pressure not to flunk children.
The Star's analysis found, that because grade inflation is likely occurring in Tucson-area schools, not only are thousands of children being socially promoted every year, but many other students are receiving passing grades they may not deserve.
The reasons for social promotion and grade inflation are so complex and so myriad that it would be unfair to jump to conclusions without studying the data a little more carefully. But I can assure you that the anti-NCLB crowd will blame the NCLB despite the long standing practice of social promotion and the effects of grade inflation prior to the passage of NCLB. Does NCLB exacerbate the problem? I am willing to concede that it might have an effect but it will likely be a low correlational effect rather than a direct causation.
But what can be done? Can a school or school system suddenly stop the practice of social promotion? If it does, I can almost guarantee an even greater increase in grade inflation in order to avoid mass failure.
Underlying the problem, perhaps at its deepest core, is the lack of political fortitude. As has been the case in many other states, state leaders in Arizona no doubt talked tough when it came to higher standards, to better teaching and to holding schools accountable. But when it comes time to deliver, our leaders in and out of educaiton, lack the will to say, "we told you that we were going to do XYZ if you students/parents/teachers did not do your part. Now the time of reckoning has come and we are going to stick to our promise to do XYZ." But that never happens, instead, leaders start looking for ways out, alternatives that water down the standards for no particular reason, or just plain abandoning their stated principles when the excrement starts to his the wind creating device.
So perhaps social promotion is so much an educational problem as a political problem, that problem being a lack of a spine.