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Board member questions social promotion in schools

January 28, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Berkeley County Board of Education member Monday night called attention to "social promotion" in the county school system, which is the idea of promoting students to higher grades before they have learned required skills.

Board member Patrick Murphy said he believes there is a "sizable minority" of students being promoted to higher grades before they are ready.

And with some students, they realize that is how the system works, Murphy said.

Because students realize they will be promoted regardless of their performance, they often do not work to their fullest potential, said Murphy, who has worked as a school teacher.

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It is a problem that can have many implications, Murphy said.

"We're destroying the work ethic in our public schools," Murphy said.

Murphy told fellow board members that some teachers believe it is an issue that deserves attention.

Murphy said he polled about 1,000 teachers in the school system and 67 percent said they believe social promotion needs to be curtailed.

Murphy's comments brought mixed reaction from board members and school administrators.

Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto defended the academic ability of Berkeley County's students by pointing to their success rate in college.

More than 80 percent of Berkeley County's students who go to college return for a second year of college, which shows they have the academic skills needed to succeed, Aliveto said.

At the same time, Aliveto welcomed discussion about social promotion. Aliveto said he would determine the best way to get teacher input on the issue.

"Let's hear from the folks (and get) good solid discussion in the schools," Aliveto said.

Under the school system's current policies, it is up to a teacher whether to hold a student back a grade due to academic problems, said Murphy.

In some cases, students who show behavior problems are moved to the next grade because teachers do not want to deal with them, Murphy said.

Murphy referred to the students as a "hot potato."

Aliveto acknowledged that those students are a concern to teachers.

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