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Bill aims to end eighth-grade social promotion

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State Sen. Brian Kelsey and Charlotte Burks plan to introduce a bill during the 2012 legislative session to ensure that Tennessee eighth-graders have learned the material necessary to start high school.

Senate Bill 2156 will end the practice of social promotion for eighth-graders. Social promotion is the practice of passing students to the next grade level, even though those students have not mastered the material.

The bill expands upon Public Chapter No. 351, which passed last year and was introduced by Burks, D-Monterey. That law ended the practice of social promotion for third-graders.

The legislation is the eighth in a series of announcements by Kelsey in his “12 for ’12” initiative for the next legislative session, which is set to reconvene Jan. 10.

“Our high school students in Tennessee must enter the ninth grade with the skills they need to succeed,” said Kelsey, a Germantown Republican. “Passing students regardless of their test scores sets these children up for failure.  It denies them the quality education they deserve.”

Currently, more than 20,000 students in grades 4-8 are promoted to the next grade every year without demonstrating a basic understanding of the curriculum or the skills tested by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, the end of year test administered in grades 3-8.

An estimated 1,600 of those students are promoted from eighth grade to ninth grade.

Florida passed a similar bill in 2002. Students there who repeated third grade performed better than they would have if they had been passed to a higher grade. The improvement was measurable within only two years, according to a Colorado University study.