ANNAPOLIS – Maryland schools need strict standards for passing students up a grade instead of using promotions “as a means of getting them out of the way,” a lawmaker argued Tuesday.
Del. Tony Fulton, D-Baltimore, said “social promotion,” the practice of advancing students who have not met the academic requirements of their grade level, devalues school systems and ultimately cheats students of their educations.
“People are being advanced because of their size, age, or destructive tendencies without the schooling they need,” Fulton told a House Ways and Means Education Subcommittee Tuesday.
He sponsored House Bill 61, which would force local school boards to set strict standards for student promotion based on achievement, age, uniqueness, need, development and ability.
But school officials said they already have such standards in place and that Fulton’s bill would not improve the situation.
“You can pass that bill into law, but you won’t see a substantial change,” said Terry Greenwood, executive director of the Maryland Public School Superintendents Association.
He said each local school board in the state already considers the criteria laid out in Fulton’s bill when determining student advancement. There are also times when school boards have good reason to pass students who do not meet all the curriculum guidelines, he said.
“If a student is not doing well in math, but is doing fine in all his other studies, should he be held back just for that?” he asked.
Greenwood said that remedial teaching programs would be more effective than holding students back another year. Dorchester County Superintendent Spicer Bell agreed that remedial education is often better than holding a student back.
“Studies show that once a student is retained, the odds of them dropping out of school increase dramatically,” said Bell.
But Fulton said a state mandate would ensure that local school systems make their promotion decisions carefully.
“What they want is the latitude to make the changes themselves,” Fulton said. “I’ve set the structure for what should be considered. But something is wrong because the standards are not being met.”
Fulton said school boards promote students who are not ready for the next grade level to keep them from disrupting classrooms.
He said the current process is “arbitrary and capricious … and it’s not fair to the students.”
The Ways and Means Committee has not scheduled a vote on the bill.