The Buffalo Public Schools' effort to end the decades-long practice of social promotion, that is, moving students up grade levels despite failing grades, is justifiably ending. The Board of Education, at Superintendent James A. Williams' urging, eliminated social promotions over the next three years while using an academic reform program to help struggling students. The board and Williams deserve credit for doing what's right.
Williams correctly defined the problem as a cancer and by offering a phased-in approach and additional academic assistance, he has a viable plan to ease the transition. Of course, it is a costly proposition for a district in deep financial straits. But students should not leave school without basic skills.
Critics of ending social promotion have pointed to the psychological effects of holding a student back when his peers move ahead. But balancing any perceived psychological trauma students may suffer does not compare to the personal and societal trauma of passing students along only to seem them drop out later because they can't meet high school standards.
Ending an entrenched system of social promotion has been a heavy lift in other cities around the country -- New York, Chicago and Philadelphia -- but it's worth the exertion. Park District Board Member Jack Coyle said students have benchmarks they are expected to master and with No Child Left Behind and state Regents exams, their chances of success in school and life are slim without adequate preparation and achievement. Good things to learn at a young age.