Research Proposal: Social Promotion or School Retention

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Social Promotion or School Retention

The school years of a student are what determine their academic future. This is the reason why there has been a good deal of debate on the issue of social promotion and school retention. When the students are unable to pass their final exams, for whatever reason, it always creates a problem for the administration and the teachers because they have to make the decision of promoting the student to the next grade or retaining him or her in the same one. Apart from promotion based on performance, the culture of "socially" promoting the student is also becoming prevalent. Promotion as well as retention both can have negative impacts on a failing student pertaining to his future academic performance and his behavior. Keeping in view the impacts of social promotion and retention, the researchers want to devise an alternative way for students who do not perform well in their final exams. In this paper, we shall conduct a study to find out what problems the students, teachers and parents have to face when a student fails and what makes them promote on retain them. Moreover, we shall also discuss the expected conclusions of the study and shed some light on the alternative solutions to this problem. The study will be based students, their parents and teachers of five different schools in New York. The details of the study will be provided later in this paper.


The concept of social promotion has become quite prevalent in the society. There are many schools in different states of the country that promote the student when he reaches a certain age, irrespective of the number of times he has failed the final exams. However, the United States Department of Education does not recognize this concept (1999). Moreover, many studies have been conducted by the No Child Left Behind movement that have suggested that social promotion of the student is not effective in making the students perform well in their studies (Denton, 2001). On the other hand, retaining the student for years in the same grade has also proved to be ineffective.

Research Problem Statement

The main objective of education is to make the students attain the knowledge that they can apply in their daily lives and careers. To test whether or not students have understood that they were taught throughout the year and to test whether or not the students are able to apply the knowledge, annual examinations are held. The dilemma arises when some of the students are not able to pass these examinations. The teachers and the administration of the school are left with two options of either promoting the student to the next grade or retaining him or her in the same one.

Retention of the student in the same grade almost always results in behavioral changes in the student, which are usually negative. This is mainly because the student feels left behind as all his friends have passed on to the next grade. The development of negative attitude and behavior hinders the learning process for the student and therefore retention is not always a good idea to make the student come over his short comings.

On the other hand, social promotion is also not always the solution to the problem. Some students are only promoted to the next grade on the basis of their age so that they do not feel socially awkward. The aforementioned is the explanation of the term social promotion. Yet again, the purpose of education is seldom fulfilled with this measure since it cannot determine whether or not the student will start performing well in his studies once he is promoted. This culture has been adopted by most schools all over the country but its effectiveness has still not been established.

Since there are issues pertaining to the educational growth of the students in retention and social promotion, it is important for the teachers and educators to come up with an alternative solution to this problem. It should be remembered that whatever new method is adopted, it should be beneficial for the students and should be cost effective for the parents and the school as well.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this paper is to identify the factors that are considered by the administrators before they make a decision of promoting or retaining a student when he fails to pass his exams. These factors can be exploited to devise new strategies so that learning can be made easier and interesting for these students. As of now, the students who fail their exams are only promoted when the administration reckons that their promotion is beneficial for the teachers and the students. However, the root cause of the poor result is seldom sought. Through this study we shall also explore the innovative teaching methods that enhance learning.

Research Questions

There are four questions that will be used in this study. The questions are as follows:

1. What are negative effects (if any) of social promotion or retention on the teachers and the students?

2. What criterion is used to decide whether or not the student should be promoted? Who are the stakeholders involved in this decision making process?

3. Should the parents be involved when making the decision of retaining the student?

4. What are some of the innovative alternatives that can be used instead of retention?

Literature Review

The main theme of this study is to find out the benefits as well as the disadvantages of social promotion in comparison with retention along with figuring out alternative teaching methods and ways to enhance student learning. What needs to be established here is whether or not the benefits of social promotion outweigh its adverse effects. In this part of the paper, we will discuss the pros and cons of social promotion vs. retention according to the researchers that have previously been conducted.

The most important benefit of social promotion is that of a psychological nature. It has been observed that when students are kept with their friends and promoted with them, they strive to perform better and stay with their friends by not failing the exams (Stump, 2013). On the other hand, retention can result in students feeling frustrated and thinking that they are not as good as their friends. This can further decrease their learning abilities and if such is the case then it cannot be expected that they will perform any better even if they are retained (Greene, 2008).

The main disadvantage of social promotion becomes evident when these students graduate. With an exception of some students, chances are high that the students who are socially promoted might start thinking that even if they fail; they can get away with it. When do not strive to learn, they will have to face a great deal of difficulties when they join the workforce. When they will mess up at their workplace because they never paid attention to what was being taught in the class, their employer will not always overlook the mistakes (Hager, 2013). Moreover, if the students are surrounded by friends who do not work hard, chances are very less that they will strive to attain good grades. In such cases, it is better to separate the students from their friends so that they can focus on their education.

In the year 1998, the Secretary of Education pressed on the school districts to explore alternatives to grade retention and social promotion. According to the White House Press Office, promotion of unprepared students and retention of students in the same grade are not effective measures for the low student achievement since these measures assume that academic failure is acceptable and cannot be avoided. Instead of this, it was recommended that research-based practices should be implemented that would assist students in meeting the standards from the very first time when they are introduced to them (Aldridge and Goldman, 2007).

There are two key points that need to be emphasized when schools start creating plans for the prevention of school failure. Firstly, the schools must be active and strive to prevent failure. Secondly, the teachers and administration should identify the students that are at risk of failing, as soon as they can and then immediately implement the strategies for the prevention of their failure (Aldridge and Goldman, 2007).


Five public schools in New York will be used for this study. This will be a comparative study in which ten competent and qualified educators will be interviewed and they will be asked to fill out the questionnaire that will be used for this study. The study will be based on qualitative results rather than quantitative results. Since the demographic experience of the teachers in different districts could be different and therefore it can affect their decision making pertaining to promotion or retention of the failing students.

It should be noted here that the main focus of this study is not to find out the root causes of retention but to figure and discover… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Social Promotion or School Retention.  (2013, July 28).  Retrieved September 16, 2019, from

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"Social Promotion or School Retention."  July 28, 2013.  Accessed September 16, 2019.