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New York targets social promotion of third graders.

Despite a collective howl of protest from parents, teachers, administrators and education academics, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg muscled through a plan to prevent the promotion of third graders who score at the lowest level of New York City's reading and math assessments. Research has shown mixed results for retention, but Bloomberg and NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein say their plan addresses the weaknesses found in other retention initiatives.

Social promotion has made headlines around the country this year. In Georgia, a 2001 law that goes into effect this year requires third graders who don't pass the state's reading exam to either be held back or placed in a transitional class. Chicago implemented a similar plan in 1996. And in April the Consortium on Chicago Schools Research released study findings of "no substantial positive or negative effects of retention two years out" for third graders as well as increased special education placements for retained students and increased dropout rates for those retained in eighth grade.

But, there are other numbers in Chicago to be considered. Overall test scores have risen in the city during the last eight years, attendance is up and the dropout rate is down. Some teachers have publicly called the program a success.

Bloomberg and Klein say their effort will dramatically increase the support given students who fail. Test results for 2004 aren't in yet, but before the tests some 30,000 NYC third graders were given intensive remedial attention, including after school tutoring, breakfast tutoring and small group tutoring during the school day. In addition, about 15,000 NYC students attended Spring Break Academy this year, according to the New York Department of Education.

For the more than 10,000 expected to fail the tests, teachers must create portfolios that demonstrate their class performance. Those portfolios will be reviewed by the building principal and superintendent, and a decision will be made whether the student is "included in Summer Success Academy, retained, or [they] take the test again in August," says Michele McManus, spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education.

The teacher's union opposed the policy overall and is unhappy about the added task of creating portfolios, saying it is too "late in the process for the department to be creating this requirement," says United Federation of Teachers spokesman Dick Riley.

Administrators are unhappy with the policy, saying emphasis should be placed on earlier intervention rather than third-grade retention.

"Every bit of research indicates that an early childhood education aids in academic development and increases the chances of success later in life," says Jill Levy, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which represents 5,500 principals, assistant principals and other supervisors.

But experts say social promotion and retention are black-and-white solutions to a complex education problem. The Chicago consortium concluded, "Grade retention is not an effective approach to remediating skill deficiencies for persistently low-achieving students. Neither is social promotion."
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Title Annotation:Update: education news from school, businesses, research and government agencies
Author:Sausner, Rebecca
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:488
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