These past two months while the Arizona Daily Star and the network news stations obsess on a book ban that does not exist and TUSD’s unsuccessful Mexican American Studies program, two TUSD Governing Board members, Dr. Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks have been focusing on social promotion. The policy of socially promoting unskilled students has left thousands of TUSD kids devastated, with little chance of future success in higher grades and the work force.
The Board members’ focus came as a result of requests by district teachers who put kids first. They urged the Board members to look into the matter, after they had seen too many kids come into their classrooms with few reading or math skills.
Education Week is also focusing on social promotion. This week’s issue offers the article, More States Retaining Struggling 3rd Graders. Like Stegeman and Hicks, the article notes that opponents to social promotion see retention “as a last resort, and that a key goal of the policies is to place a greater focus—and apply some extra pressure—to make sure schools intervene early with struggling readers. Without an adequate ability to read, they say, children are ill-equipped to learn across disciplines and may never catch up.”
Earlier this month, at the request of the board members, the district’s administration presented a report on social promotion. Stegeman grilled Dr. Maria Menconi on the administration’s lack of effort on behalf of mostly underserved students. In closing he said, “I am concerned that (Board policy) is obviously not working for the welfare of the child. We need to do something much different here.”
“Dr. Stegeman and Mr. Hicks are right on target. The practice of social promotion is not designed to help students achieve. It is, rather, designed to make administrators look good. Teacher recommendations to hold children in grade until they can minimally meet standards have been overruled by building administrators who are fearful of how it will look if students are not promoted. It is what is done to avoid dealing with challenging learning situations, and has been a contributing factor in the loss of confidence many parents have in TUSD,” said public school advocate and former educator, Rich Kronberg.
“Ending social promotion should not be the goal for educators, ultimately. The goal ought to be to create learning environments where students can meet standards and be successful in their lives,” said Kronberg. “But ending the practice of denying there are problems is the first step in making sure all students have the opportunities they need to learn and succeed.”
“I know firsthand the harm of social promotion. I worked hard to overcome the obstacles it created for me. I do not want our kids to have to go through what I went through, said Michael Hicks. “We cannot cheat the leaders of tomorrow out of a good education today.”