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Moving Up a Level in the Pandemic

February 23, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive disruptive impact on students in the U.S. As might be expected, many have fallen behind due to the unique difficulties of remote learning. Also due to the way that the pandemic has changed the circumstances of many outside of school itself. Due to people falling behind, many grade schools have had to grapple with the question of whether to advance their students to the next grade level or not.

In many ways, the idea of promoting students to the next grade level regardless of their technical readiness for the task seems just plain irresponsible.  However, on May 24 the City of Chicago’s Board of Education voted to do just that. As it is “the nation’s third-largest school district with some 340,000 students,” the board’s decisions made in regards to these students have a ripple effect not just on the decision making of contemporaries but also on the futures of all of the students currently enrolled in their system.

Thinking through the Consequences

This determination to push students forward a grade has been accompanied by several lowered bars for graduation requirements. It makes the school system seem more like an educational conveyor belt than a place of sincere learning. Teachers are concerned that they were unable to complete their jobs as educators and fully prepare their students for the future of their education.

Of course, holding students back would have also had destructive consequences. For example, the potential of ruining a student’s confidence can have major psychological repercussions. What with the fairly strong association in the public mind between repeating a grade and incompetence or stupidity. The struggles of rebuilding their confidence could end up being more difficult than making up for learning deficits in the long run.

The System Over the Student

At the end of the day, pushing students a grade ahead regardless of their preparedness is a recipe for disaster. After all, students were pushed ahead to the next grade. This was not out of a concern for their mental health. It was out of a concern for the assembly line of the education system. Sacrificing the potential of a generation of students is much more convenient for them than actually looking after their needs. Standardization and efficiency will always take priority over actual learning and efficacy.

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