Impact of Social Promotion on Learning

Long-Term Effects of Social Promotion on Student and Teacher

There is a problem in an urban elementary school in Eastern New York. This problem specifically is the social promotion of fifth grade students. Currently, nothing is being done to address the issue of social promotion which is supported by state education policies that benefits from children being passed to the next grade level. There is a lack of training for teachers who teach students who are at risk learners. Teaching at risk learners is one of the areas that require high quality teachers to enhance learner outcomes. However, at risk learners have teachers who are not adequately trained to meet the standards of effective teaching to meet their needs (Grant, Stronge & Popp, 2008). The current educational system/framework does not align such learners with expert teachers, but with average teachers with inadequate training, average skills, and less experience (Grant, Stronge & Popp, 2008). In essence, at-risk learners are usually taught by teachers with minimal content of the subject matter they are addressing and lack proper and adequate preparation/training in teaching. Consequently, there are negative perceptions and misunderstanding of these students who need more experienced and properly trained teachers (Grant, Stronge & Popp, 2008).

Social promotion is the practice of passing students along so that they may remain among their peer/ age group even though the students have not mastered their learning assessments and/or testing in order to advance to the next grade level (Education Week, 2004). This practice has the potential to jeopardize the students’ academic and lifetime goals. It also has the potential to make the teacher’s job more challenging, as the teacher will find him or herself engaging with students in one group who are not all on the same learning level. Educators should reexamine social promotion to see how it actually affects both students and teachers in the end (Education Week, 2004). Aldridge & Goldman (2014) describes social promotion as challenging for those involved. Students and parents may have an incorrect sense of achievement because of it. For the students who complete the grade successfully may feel their success does not matter. Parents may receive a mix message that their children are successful and ready for the next grade. Social promotion creates differing attitudes about passing to the next grade, not all are good ones.


The purpose of this qualitative study is to examine the long-term effects of social promotion on students and teachers. In addition, the researcher will seek knowledge on teachers’ experiences on grade retention and how to look at different strategies to improve academic achievement as well as best practices. Therefore, this study aims to allow teachers to have the ability to evaluate and assess their decisions, attitudes and an overall pedagogical educational approach. The outcome of this study might lead to better decisions on behalf of teachers and students’ academic achievement.


This study is significant because it addresses a long-term issue in education that can have a direct impact on the achievement of students and the teaching ability of educators. This study is also significant because implementing or withholding promotions may be instrumental in the developmental progress of the high risk student and a better understanding of how promotions are impactful could result in a more effective solution for both students and teachers (Jimerson et al., 2006).

This research will contribute to filling gap in practice, as Mawhinney, Irby, and Roberts (2016) confirms that there are uncertainties on whether social promotion or retention is the most suitable measure for ending low student achievement. The long-term impacts of social promotion on students remain relatively unknown because of the ongoing debates on the most suitable way for addressing low student achievement (Hernandez-Tutop, 2012). The practice of social promotion in the current educational system has attracted considerable criticism on claims that it seemingly contributes to decrease in the country’s academic status globally. In light of the existing uncertainties, crucial research is critical to address the impact that social promotion has on the accomplishment of teachers, students, and their parents (Jacob & Ludwig, 2009).

The research study will use the qualitative method to survey participants on whether to implement changes in the program. This study will produce data that provide more knowledge about the influence of social promotion have on all persons involved in the process. The result of this study is expected to be proposal of changes to existing social promotion programs, which will in turn act as new measures for helping high-risk students. Changes in the social promotion programs will be part of the process of ensuring at-risk students have properly trained and experienced teachers to meet their learning needs. One of the questions this study asked was whether there was correlation between teacher burnout and social promotion of students.

Background Literature

1. Chou, Y. C., Wehmehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., & Lee, J. (2016). Comparisons of self-determination among students with autism, intellectual disability, and learning disabilities: A multivariate analysis. http://1088357615625059

According to this research, teachers working with students with learning disabilities should be adequately trained on how to best support their learning needs. It is because the teachers are the immediate people who will determine the fate of such students in their future lives after completing their education. It is the initial step that will help students in addressing their learning disability problems during their instruction period. After identification of the problem, the teacher will continue helping the students. Additionally, students with learning disabilities can be assisted to pursue other training apart from specific class training and promotion to the next grade level. Such students with learning disabilities might have other interests that they enjoy pursing in their lives (Chou et al., 2016). It is the responsibility of teachers after adequate training to identify such interest from the student’s class. After the teachers have identified the interest of the students with learning disabilities, they will help them pursue their interests. This is also done even when the help is done outside the classroom with related services. All involved in this process commits to working together for effective learning and achievement. Students and teachers work as a team to improve enough scholastically, to move to the next grade level. This article will enhance my study by highlighting the need for experienced and properly trained teachers in handling at-risk students. The article enhances this study by showing the impact of adequately trained and experienced teachers on social promotion in relation to meeting students’ needs.

2. Ciullo, S., Falcomata, T., & Vaughn, S. (2015). Teaching social studies to upper elementary students with learning disabilities: Graphic organizers and explicit instruction. http://10.1177/0731948713516767

This research stated that parents and educators might want to separate younger students from their peer group or friends, some schools and their leaders do not want to be embarrassed by many students who are held back to repeat the same grade, and the community of the top school athletes in the learning institutions to lose their eligibility of playing sports. Such institutions by the parents and community made the learning institutions to adopt the social promotion method of promoting students to the next grade level. These further influences the promotion decisions made specifically during the elementary grades (Ciullo et al., 2015). In addition, (Ciullo et al., 2015) states, students with learning disabilities are those who do not understand what is being taught or the learning standards such as “Common-Core” is quite rigorous; although these standards are mandated by the State educational laws. In this case, many students will perform poorly in their classes as compared to fellow students who are taught by the same teachers and use the same learning materials in the learning environment. In every learning facility, students are given a test after certain periods of learning in order to measure their level of understanding and identify what should be done more to improve their understanding. Students with learning disabilities tend to perform poorly on standardized test; as what is being tested is what they have been learning in class, and they will have not understand. However, this puts students in a disadvantaged situation. This article will enhance my study through demonstrating the need for social promotion, especially for at-risk students because the current educational system is not fair to such students in terms of student assessment.

3. Lamport, M.A. (2012). Special Needs Students in Inclusive Classrooms: The Impact of Social Interaction on Educational Outcomes for Learners with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities. European Journal of Business and Social Sciences, 1(5), 54-69.

This research stated that one of the main objectives of special education is provide students with disabilities the opportunity to engage in a learning environment that is not restrictive so that they obtain quality education like their non-disabled counterparts. Numerous measures have been undertaken to achieve this including involving them in general education. However, this research found that general education teachers are concerned regarding teaching students with learning disabilities. These teachers have indicated that they have lack of adequate/proper training, planning time, and resources. This article will help my study by demonstrating the shortcomings of general education teachers in providing quality education to at-risk learners. It will help highlight the importance of proper training and resources to teachers in order to improve student outcomes including students with disabilities.

4. Lane, K.L., Menzies, H.M., Ennis, R.P. & Bezdek, J. (2013). School-wide Systems to Promote Positive Behaviors and Facilitate Instruction. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 7(1), 6-31.

This research examined the impact of school-wide systems to enhance positive behaviors and promote instruction of students. The study found that tiered school support systems provide a system wide structure that is beneficial for teachers and students. While teachers are not trained or prepared to function as social workers, behavior specialists and psychologists, they spend time with students. During this time, teachers notice how students respond to tasks, interact with each other, and handle several responsibilities. The article recommends the establishment of coordinated systems of support between teachers, parents and other stakeholders to effectively handle educational, social, and behavioral competencies of students. The research is crucial for this study because it shows the most suitable measure that can be utilized in meeting the various needs of students, especially those with learning disabilities.

5. Kourkoutas, E. & Giovazolias, T. (2015). School-Based Counseling Work With Teachers: An Integrative Model. The European Journal of Counseling Psychology, 3(2), 58.

The research states that teachers usually encounter challenges in various areas including when handling behavioral issues and psychological wellness of students. The article found that there is need for a more holistic and school-based intervention system as well as specialized help to teachers. This is primarily because evidence indicates that teachers are more effective in handling students’ issues when properly directed and assisted by adequately trained school counselors. The article advocates for a more coordinated approach towards promoting the social-emotional wellbeing of at-risk learners. This would entail collaborative, systemic, and dialectical involvement of teachers in the counseling process. The research is significant to this study because it highlights the lack of proper training of teachers to handle all issues relating to at-risk learners. Consequently, these needs of these learners are not adequately met, which contributes to low student achievement that could be addressed through social promotion.

6. Okurut, J.M. (2015). Examining the Effect of Automatic Promotion on Students’ Learning Achievements in Uganda’s Primary Education. World Journal of Education, 5(5), 85-100.

This research was carried out to examine the impact of social promotion on the cognitive learning outcomes of students. Automatic promotion was found to have positive impacts on students’ by contributing to improved learning outcomes in math and reading. Therefore, the researchers concluded that automatic promotion has positive impacts on students with regards to their learning outcomes. The research will enhance this study because it addresses one of the crucial aspects of this research i.e. the effect of social promotion on students. It will enhance my study by providing a basis for understanding how social promotion impact students on the long-term and its overall effects on the learning environment.

7. Kinga, E.M., Orazem, P.F. & Paterno, E.M. (2015). Promotion with and without Learning: Effects on Student Enrollment and Dropout Behavior. The World Bank Economic Review, 49(1).

This research into the impact of social promotion on students with regards to enrollment and dropout behaviors examined crucial factor that should be taken into consideration during social promotion of students, especially at-risk students. The study was carried out on the premise that social/automatic policies are based on the assumption that grade retentions do not encourage continuation in school. The research found that social promotion even of students with poor performance does not hinder their ability to perform well in the succeeding grade. However, the social promotion of students who are not adequately prepared could be counter-productive and contribute to early dropouts. The findings of this research enhance my study by showing important considerations to make when assessing the long-term effects of social promotion on students and teachers. This research provides an important consideration when designing social promotion programs so that they are effective in enhancing the learning environment and outcomes, which is crucial in my study.

Research Methodology and Design

This study will be qualitative in nature using surveys, observations and interviews to conduct phenomenological research, analyzed through a critical theory lens. Students and teachers will be observed during instructional periods. In addition, students and teachers will be interviewed. According to (Creswell, 2012) as stated by (Willman, 2016) Qualitative data collected within a research study is typically descriptive data collected through the use of observations, interviews, questionnaires, and more. The results from the observations and interviews will be implemented to provide the information necessary to close the gap in research on the most suitable way to end low student achievement. Information from this study will also help in filling gaps in research on the most suitable framework for students’ assessment for at-risk learners and other students.


Aldridge, J. & Goldman, R. (2014, May 7). Current issues and trends in education (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.

Education Week. (2004, August 4). Social Promotion. Retrieved December 22, 2016, from

Grant, L., Stronge, J.H. & Popp, P. (2008, May). Effective Teaching and At-Risk/Highly Mobile Students: What Do Award-Winning Teachers Do? Retrieved from Sonoma State University website:

Hernandez-Tutop, J. (2012, May). Social Promotion or Grade Repetition: What’s Best for the 21st Century Student. Retrieved from Institute of Education Sciences website:

Jacob, B.A. & Ludwig, J. (2009). Improving Educational Outcomes for Poor Children. Focus, 26(2), 56-61.

Jimerson et al. (2006). Beyond Grade Retention and Social Promotion: Promoting the Social and Academic Competence of Students. Psychology in the Schools, 43(1),85-97.

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