Dr. Pychiatrist has a little tv in his waiting room and it's always tuned in to a soap opera. I don't know which one it was yesterday, but someone was in the hospital, pregnant, and under some sort of emotional distress (of course). The camera focused on the vital statistics machine and showed her heart rate going up to *gasp* around 90 bpm. A nurse (doctor?) came rushing in all concerned because the monitor showed that Pregnant Lady's heart was "racing!" Racing? Really? HA! My heart is routinely in the 120's. Ninnies.
So while I was waiting, I overheard the phone conversation of another patient. Shut up - it was a very small waiting room and there was no way I could not hear the conversation. The woman was upset because her son had failed his end of grade assessment. Apparently, this wasn't the first time he had failed. The plan was to have him take it again, and if he failed again to put him through summer school, and if he failed again to go ahead and promote him. This had happened twice already, resulting in a third grade student with the reading level of a first grader. The mother was determined that her son wouldn't be pushed down the river again. (Bravo!)
I, as you can guess, was about to pop. When the lady finished her conversation, I sat there and debated whether or not I should say anything. There was no way that the woman could've expected privacy, but I didn't think it socially proper to acknowledge that I had heard every word of this family matter.
Ultimately, I leaned over, announced that I was a defacto teacher, and told her that she was doing the right thing by forcing the school to deal with her son's dilemma rather than allowing them to shove him into the next grade. The mother shared that the school never made her aware of the availability of programs to help her son, that she had heard of those through word of mouth, and had had to request them. She was thoroughly upset and adamant that she was not going to let the school leave her child behind by promoting him forward. I hope that she does follow through with her advocacy.
Obviously, I do not believe in promoting students who are unable, by the end of the year, to perform up to task. This doesn't mean that I think that children should be held back to the extent that they are hitting puberty and still holding hands with their classmates to walk to lunch, which is the argument that the idiotic make in favor of "social promotion." I just think that we ought to pull out all the stops to help a student be legitimately promoted to the next grade. This includes reaching out to community programs, holding students after school, and any and every other measure that can be taken.
Do you really think that a student doesn't know when they, instead of being promoted on merit, simply age out of the previous grade? As damaging as it would be for them to be a 13 year old 3rd grader, do you think their self-esteem is served by allowing them to struggle the next year with work that they cannot handle, and for it to get worse every year?
Something (else) has got to (and can) be done.