School Board Debates ‘Social Promotion’

OSWEGO, NY – At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Fran Hoefer spoke out against the current pass-fail system.

“I think social promotion is an absolute abject failure,” he said of the system he sees as promoting some students before they are academically prepared.

You shouldn’t reward someone who hasn’t successfully completed the work, he said.

“The real world doesn’t work that way. If you fail, you are screwed! You pay the price for it; your boss doesn’t give you a raise because he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings,” he said. “But, we’re teaching kids that that’s how it works.”

This system might be to blame for the district’s high dropout rate, he said, adding “social promotion pushes children on to something they are utterly incapable of.”

And, if it is a failure, “We need to get rid of it right away,” he concluded. “I don’t care what the rest of New York State does. We’re doing this for our kids!”

Hoefer said many of the teachers he’s talked with agree.

“We currently have a committee that is looking at our retention policy,” said Bill Crist, superintendent. “That committee will have a report and come back to the board and say what they believe what should be an amendment to the retention policy … or leaving the retention policy alone.”

In the past, some parents have called him and begged to have their kids held back a grade, Hoefer said.

“It was in 2000, the last time we had a review of the policy,” board vice president Jim Tschudy pointed out. “Here it is almost a decade later. It is not an easy problem to wrestle with.”

Hoefer said he’d like to see the graduation rates before and after the policy.

“I don’t want to listen to a committee with a vested interest. I want to see numbers,” he said.

“I get what social promotion tries to do,” said board member John Dunsmoor. “What I don’t get is when you have a kid who doesn’t show up or shows up and doesn’t do anything (and is promoted). Why do we reward kids for not doing? They’re not getting discipline at home and I think they need it somewhere. Kids that get discipline I think do well in our school district.”

“Every student that doesn’t meet a certain level, you’re holding back – eventually, they’re going to be too old for the class,” board member Tom DeCastro pointed out. “They’re going to be too big for the class; size does matter.”

The former teacher added, “What you don’t want is 16- and 17-year-old boys running around with 11-, 12- and 13-year-old girls. There are a lot of factors that you need to look at. It’s not cut and dry. Not every kid learns at the same rate. We don’t have a magic wand that makes every kid the same.”

The discussion had begun at the end of a nearly five-hour meeting.

The superintendent said he would arrange for a report from the committee and put the item back on for discussion at an upcoming meeting, earlier in the agenda when everyone is fresher.


  1. I agree with Fran Hoefer. I am surprised Dave White did not disagree with his typical furor. I also appreciate Fran pointing out the “committees with vested interests.” The same butt-kissers are always appointed to school district committees and committees always come back with the result that the superintendent and board majority want to hear. Besides the usual suspects, nobody serves on school district committees anymore because the findings are always bought and paid for and the committees are just used as a farce to push the agenda of whoever is in charge. Anyone with a different opinion is shut down immediately.

  2. People do volunteer but if they are not a groupie of either the superintendent or board majority leader, they will not be selected.

  3. Fran has a valid point. Some teachers can’t deal with certain students and promote them so they will not have to deal with them again the following year. If you show a student that you do not care about them, they will walk right out the door. Mom and dad also show they don’t care when they allow their child to escape reality…the real world!

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