A bi-partisan group of first-term state senators would like to crack down on schools that automatically advance students to the next grade level. They unveiled legislation Wednesday at the statehouse to end so-called “social promotion.”
“These kids are moved up and advanced, no matter what their performance is in the classroom,” Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, says. “When they get to high school, that’s when they have to have credit hours and that’s when they’re failing.”
Under the bill, grade-school students must meet benchmarks established by the district to advance to the next grade. Middle-school students who fail one of their core classes, like math or science, must show profiency in the subject before moving on. And in all cases, the district must offer the students a tutor or summer school to catch up. “Our intent here is simple. We want to end social promotion,” Zaun says ” We want kids to be able to pass on to the next grade with the necessary tools…to be successful.”
Democrat Senator Brian Schoenjahn of Arlington, a teacher, says letting underprepared kids move on to the next grade only hurts them later on and it’s time to do something. “Students in Iowa will go to class, pass the class and when they receive a diploma, the diploma will be a meaningful one,” Schoenjahn says.
Another member of the group seeking the change is Democratic Senator Tom Reilly of Oskaloosa. “This is a bill that will not leave any child behind,” Reilly says. “If there is some child that does need a little help, they won’t just be promoted on. We want to make sure that they get that help and we want to back it up with some resources.” The legislation provides one-million dollars to help schools pay for the extra instruction required for students who flunk their grade.