Slowing Down a Quick Fix

Ending social promotion sounds great. But L.A. discovers it could mean flunking half its students

In the past few years, reformers have embraced a disarmingly simple idea for fixing schools: Why not actually flunk those students who don't earn passing grades? Both Democrats and Republicans have begun attacking the practice of "social promotion"--shuttling bad students to the next grade, advancing them with peers even if they are failing. Make F truly mean failure, the movement says.

Last week in Los Angeles, the reformers learned just how ornery the current system can be. According to a plan released Tuesday by the L.A. school district, ending social promotion there will take at least four years, could cost hundreds...

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