Anchorage school board removes social promotion policy - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, November 27, 2020
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Anchorage school board removes social promotion policy

The Anchorage School Board on Monday night revised the district’s social promotion policy, which has been in place for the last 20 years.

Now, the policy will be more neutral, acknowledging that every child is different and the school principals and parents should discuss whether holding a child back a grade is in the best interest of the child. The pushing children into the next grade policy is no more.

Last year, among the 3,552 third graders, only five were held back from going on to fourth grade, School Board member Dave Donley told the board. Considering the proficiencies of students, that seems like a low number.

But it is in line with the district’s written preference that students should be moved to the next grade with their classmates; it’s a one-size-fits-all policy and Donley said it’s time to think differently.

[Read the board document here]

Several parents, educators, and interested citizens testified in favor of the change. Retired educator Judy Eledge said she favored the proposal, but only if students who are held back have a plan in place for helping them catch up.

Testifying against changing the policy was the head of the Anchorage teachers union, who called it a “test and punish regime, jamming curriculum down their throat.” Kids don’t have time to play or even eat, union head Tom Klaameyer said. “We take kids where they are and … we nurture them and allow them to go from there. They do catch up.”

Board members debated it for about an hour, with Board member Mark Foster offering some of the most harsh critique of the change:

“I’ll be voting against this destructive policy. It’s not neutral. Look at weight of the evidence — it’s strongly against grade retention at the third grade because it falls disproportionately on uneducated single mothers,” he said. “Delaying an early start is a stronger policy. There’s much stronger research, better results, and it avoids some of the risks.”

But the measure had already passed the Board’s governance committee and had the support of the superintendent, Deena Bishop.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I find a couple statements troubling here. The retired teacher’s comment suggests there may be no plan in place for a struggling student at risk of or actually repeating a grade. The Union Rep accuses disproportionate #s 3rd graders held back because are children of single parents.What does that mean? Describes curriculum and testing torture, only for 3rd graders? Struggling 3rd graders? All students in general?

    • That is correct. I am a retired teacher and principal and have worked all over Alaska in low performing schools. In my experience many schools and teacher do not have a plan to intervene and assure a struggling student received the additional help to become successful.
      If there was we would not be last in4tb gradereading inthe US.

  • Klaameyer is at it again and that is a reason why the Union needs to be dissolved. The tepachers work for us the tax payer nit the Union. If a child is not ready to move up this should be a discussion between the Parents and the Teacher the union should have no play in it. It is plain to see the Union has no interest in the0 childs education only in the money that we the tax payer pay in property taxes. If you don’t fullfill the needs of the child then you should be fired as a teacher. ACCOUNTABILITY is the NUMBER 1 PRIORITY

  • A perfect example to prove that teachers unions are a really bad idea. To promote a child to a higher grade without that child having the knowledge to succeed there is a bad idea. It teaches the child that they don’t have to succeed at anything. That will follow and impede the success of the child for the rest of their life. Is that why the Alaska school system is the third from last ranked in the nation while having the highest per student cost in the same (nation)? That is not doing any favors for the kids. They should be taught that work and diligence regarding requirements for advancement are necessary for success in life. I think the reason for the “false” promotions are not to benefit the students. I believe that “program” is in place for the teachers, to make the teachers look good by not “failing” any students. Too bad real life is not that simple.

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