Builds on Earlier Efforts to Ensure that Students Have the Necessary Skills to Succeed at the Next Level Before They Are Promoted
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today called for an end to social promotion in the fourth and sixth grades, the culmination of his efforts to eliminate the discredited practice that long allowed New York City students to advance to higher grades despite lacking the skills to succeed. The proposed new policy would complete the ending of social promotion in all grades from 3-8, ensuring that students are promoted only if they are prepared for higher level work. Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein previously ended social promotion for students in the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth grades. Students in these grades must now score Level 2 or above on State math and English Language Arts (ELA) exams to be promoted. The Mayor made the announcement, the first major policy initiative since the State Legislature reauthorized mayoral control of the school system, at the P.S. 171 Patrick Henry School in East Harlem where Governor Pataki signed the original school governance legislation in 2002. The Mayor was joined by Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. They will ask the Panel for Educational Policy to take up the issue when it is reconstituted under the new school governance law.
“Our schools have made extraordinary achievement gains over the past seven years, and we need to continue to give every student the best possible chance to succeed,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “When we promote a child to the next grade who can’t handle the work, we’re setting that child up to fail in later grades. That’s a failure of the school system, and by asking the Panel for Educational Policy to pass this reform, we can eliminate this harmful practice and ensure that all children learn the fundamentals and enter the next grade prepared for success.”
The Mayor and Chancellor previously ended social promotion for students in the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth grades. Those students must now score Level 2 or above on State math and English Language Arts (ELA) exams to be promoted. Students who score at Level 1 are provided intensive remedial support, as well as the opportunity to attend summer school and to re-take the test. Additionally, in order to be promoted into high school, eighth-graders must pass courses in math, English, science, and social studies. These policies have resulted in a substantial increase in the number of students being promoted with the necessary grade-level skills, and a substantial decrease in the number of students who are held back.
“Our promotion policy has helped thousands of struggling students to gain the skills they need to succeed in the next grade,” said Chancellor Klein. “We need now to extend the policy to the fourth and sixth grades to ensure that these students too have the best opportunity to overcome academic challenges as they meet them. No child should fall behind and struggle because we promoted them without the necessary skills.”
Prior to the Bloomberg Administration, students often advanced to the next grade along irrespective of their academic records. Trends show that students who are promoted despite scoring at Level 1—the lowest of four scoring levels—on State tests in math and ELA continue to perform below grade level as they move through middle school and enter high school. If fourth and sixth graders during the 2008-09 school year were subject to promotion policies similar to those in effect in other grades, at least 4,000 fourth graders and at least 3,500 sixth graders would have finished the school year in June at risk of being held back because they scored a Level 1 on their math or ELA exam.
The third, fifth, and seventh grade promotion policies offer students who have scored Level 1 in math or ELA (or both) the opportunity to retake the test and earn promotion following intensive remedial work in summer school programs. These programs have been highly successful in targeting specific areas of need and improving skills, allowing students to earn promotion over the summer. Consequently, the policy has helped dramatically lower the number of students being retained. Students may also earn promotion if a review of their portfolio of class work demonstrates they have the skills to advance.
- In 2004, the first year of the third-grade promotion policy, 3,012 students needed to repeat the grade. In 2008, only 864 third-graders were retained.
- In 2005, the first year of the fifth-grade promotion policy, 1,851 students needed to repeat the grade. In 2008, only 343 fifth-graders were retained.
- In 2007, the first year of the seventh-grade promotion policy in both ELA and math (the seventh-grade policy applied to ELA only in 2006), 1,986 students were retained. In 2008, only 811 seventh-graders were retained.
Students who must repeat a grade under the policy are also far better prepared for future work. In 2008, for example:
- After repeating third grade and receiving intervention services mandated by the policy, 86 percent of students who had scored a Level 1 in ELA scored a Level 2 or higher in the fourth grade.
- After repeating fifth grade and receiving intervention services mandated by the policy, 99 percent of students who had scored a Level 1 in ELA scored a Level 2 or higher in the sixth grade.
- After repeating seventh grade and receiving intervention services mandated by the policy, 94 percent of students who had scored a Level 1 in ELA scored a Level 2 or higher in the eighth grade.
Under the school governance law the State Senate approved last Thursday, the Panel for Educational Policy must approve changes to promotion standards. Prior to doing so, the Panel must give the public the opportunity to provide input on the issue.