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Social promotion: How it impacts an IEP in California schools?

First, what is social promotion? It is a practice of passing all children to the next grade level even if they have low achievement. 

Why does this occur? Some education experts and school psychologists point to research that only shows a temporary boost in school performance for children that repeat a grade. The social and emotional impact of being held back they say can lead to more behavioral problems and higher drop-out rates.


Yet, as the pendulum has swung toward educational achievement and tough Common Core academic standards, many schools are under mounting pressure to end social promotion.

What is right for an individual child?

It really depends on the child. Parents need to advocate for their children. If a child struggles to meet the grade level standards, a first step is to complete special education testing to find out is a child has a disability – for example, dyslexia or hearing loss – that may slow the learning process.

When a child qualifies for special education services, a program team will develop an Individualized Education Program. However, this does not necessarily mean a child will repeat a grade. Often a child will advance to the next grade, but receive special help to catch up on math or reading skills.

Advancing a grade is not right for every student and can result in increasing frustration as the student falls further behind and/or behavioral problems. When parents disagree with a program team or have a gut feeling that something has been missed, there are options.

Whether through an administrative appeal or requests for subsequent testing, parents are their child’s best advocates. A special education attorney can also explain available rights under California law and help parents advocate for their children.

Source: The Press Enterprise, “Riverside mom fights to end ‘social promotion.’” Sandra Stokley Aug. 21, 2015

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