Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Mary Lou Morton


Researchers have reported the positive and negative effects of social promotion and retention. The problem at a large elementary school in the southeastern United States was inadequate achievement scores of 70% of socially promoted students in grades 3 through 5 on mandated state tests. The purpose of this case study was to explore the perspectives of teachers on social promotion, grade retention, and how to improve achievement in grades 3 through 5. Tomlinson's differentiated instruction was used as the conceptual framework. Twelve teachers from Grades 3 through 5, who had been at the school at least 1 year and represented each grade and core subject area, were interviewed and their related lesson plans were reviewed. Research questions addressed teachers' perspectives about low achievement of socially promoted and retained students' academic achievement, methods including differentiated instruction that teachers used with socially promoted students, and what teachers thought could be done to improve achievement for socially promoted and retained students. Data were coded inductively. The resulting themes were that (a) students were too far behind academically at socially promoted levels so teachers preferred retention over social promotion, and (b) teachers felt differentiated instruction, within small groups, would be helpful, but found little time to use it. The implications for social change are development of a policy of social promotion that will help teachers better meet the needs of students and provide professional development to help teachers improve implementation of differentiated instruction with a goal of increasing achievement for all students.