Pass or Fail: Alternative Strategies to the Pass or Fail System

In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.

While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?

To be effective, solutions to the problem of poor individual academic achievement should include all stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, administrators and school counselors. They should be well thought out and tested for appropriateness. As an academic intervention, grade retention, which is the current educational approach, remains a double-edged sword and, as we have seen, can be a dangerous approach for addressing academic struggles. It often does more psychosocial harm than academic benefits, and social promotion can have similar effects.

We clearly need more research in the area of psychosocial fallout from grade retention and social promotion, but there are also alternative strategies available, both for managing individual educational achievement and for managing the accountability of schools for providing quality educational opportunities. The problem with the alternatives is their disparity regarding current availability and application and the lack of available resources to implement such strategies.

Any solution to the problem of poor academic achievement must also establish a strategy for implementation, including a solid time frame.

In the forthcoming chapters, we will take a closer look at some of the key strategies for improvement of academic achievement, considering how they relate to the broader goal of any successful academic system: to create students who are ready for college and high-level jobs.

Click here to read all my suggestions for alternatives to social promotion and retention.

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