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Survey says some teachers felt pressured to pass students

April 08, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Ten percent of the teachers who responded to an optional, anonymous survey said a principal or school administrator has "pressured, forced or encouraged" them to promote a student even though the teachers felt the student should have been held back.

The survey results were presented to members of the Berkeley County Board of Education Monday night. Of the county's 1,200 teachers, 648 responded to the survey, which was conducted in March. Overall, 64 teachers said they were forced to socially promote a student, while 584 said they had not.

Those pressured to promote a student were asked to give a reason. Eighteen teachers said they were made to promote the student because of the student's age, while 12 said the threat of having the student again the following year led to the promotion.

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Six teachers said they were pressured by their principal and forced to change permanent records.

Three teachers were forced to promote a student so he or she would be eligible for athletics, according to survey results.

Board members looked at the results differently.

Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto said he was pleased that 90 percent of the respondents were not forced to engage in social promotion.

Board member Pat Murphy, however, said he was more bothered by the 10 percent of teachers who had a problem.

"The chilling effect goes beyond those 64 teachers," Murphy said. "It's a message to those (students) who have not performed."

Berkeley County's policy regarding promotion states only that the final decision is up to teachers, Superintendent Manny Arvon said after the meeting. Much of the problem centers on promoting students because they are older than their classmates, Arvon said.

"The 10 percent. It draws attention to it. And awareness helps accomplish our goal," Arvon said.

Of the 64 teachers who said they were made to promote a student, 29 came from the county's five middle schools, 15 came from the county's 15 elementary schools, 12 came from the county's four intermediate schools and eight came from the county's three high schools. One school or administration should not be judged on the results though, board members said, because teachers may have been referring to an incident that happened at another school.

A former teacher, Murphy said he can empathize with the 64 teachers forced to pass a student.

"I saw it happen," he said. "It's difficult to fight the system. It's easier when you're on the board."

Murphy asked that the issue be placed on the next board meeting's agenda, when he will seek to have volunteer teachers examine what he considers to be a problem.

"We fail that child when we've socially promoted him," Murphy said.

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