The Measure of Success

Many students across our nation are being passed from grade to grade when they should not be. However failure can be used as a powerful learning tool to help students. “Retention at the elementary school level, if its not done as punishment for failure to achieve but instead as a chance for something different, can pay off and be valuable, “ said David Bower, administrator of the student guidance services division for the LAUSD. In response to the aforementioned quote, Mr. Bower supports the idea that retention of a student can prove to be a beneficial learning experience.


Many view flunking as a form of failure.  When a person flunks it may help to give that person a second chance. Flunking simply means that the student did not understand the concepts that they were taught the first time. When a student flunks typically they must learn that set of information again.  The student now has the opportunity to relearn all of the concepts again that he or she did not comprehend successfully the first time. Furthermore while reviewing and working through the information again can help students long term. When a teacher fails a student there are usually many factors involved in this process. Most teachers and school districts use “flunking” of a student as a last resort. There are many steps that are taken to prevent the student from failing. If the teacher and school district make the choice to flunk a student they have exhausted all of their efforts at that time.


The student that flunked and had to relearn the concepts is reviewing the information for the second time and increasing their knowledge of the content material. Meaning the student who did not understand the concept in the first place when they received the 50%, is not going to understand more rigorous concepts in a higher grade. Moving that student onto the next grade may not be beneficial for them.  The skills that the school neglected to have the student relearn will now impact the student for the rest of their life. In addition, some students are not emotionally ready to move on to the next grade, and their emotional growth may have influenced their academic achievement.


Mary Sherry a teacher for adult literacy as well as mother who had experience with a son who needed to be flunked says “ Passing students who have not mastered the work cheats them and the employers who expect graduates to have basic skills.” When students are just passed along it will then affect them long term. This makes it difficult for the student to retain a job, because they can not execute basic skills successfully. Which then causes the student to be jobless, and possibly even have to attend a night school to re learn some of the basic skills.


Some may argue that when a student “flunks” they will be emotionally scarred from the incident. It depends on the age that the child was held back.  People against flunking may argue that is extremely harmful to flunk a student.  When a student is flunked they will have a harder time getting into a top college. They may be looked down upon by their peers. Whether a student attends Harvard or a local community college they are still receiving a college education. Most importantly the student will not be struggling in class and suffer emotional distress. Getting a good education and understanding  is more important than what a few people think.

“We must review the threat of flunking and view it as a positive teaching tool.” ( Sherry 554)

by: Alexis Green