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Since individual scores for schools were to be released Wednesday to parents and on Friday to the public, it could not be immediately determined how many borough third-graders faced the prospect of summer school and the possibility of not being promoted.
The state also issued the results of its reading tests last week, with fourth-grade scores down nearly three points and eighth-grade scores up three points. In Queens, scores of fourth-graders also declined, while eighth-grade scores showed improvement.
Under a new policy instituted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein aimed at ending so-called "social promotion," third-grade students scoring Level 1, the lowest category, on either the city reading or math test might be held back.
Klein said changes undertaken by the Department of Education had already shown results. About 13,000 students would have been held back as a result of last year's tests had the social promotion policy been in place then, while 11,700 face that outcome this year.
"One year into our systemwide reforms, these results represent real and significant progress," the chancellor said. "Nevertheless, after so many years of under-achievement, we know we have a long way to go. I know I speak for everyone in the system when I say we will be satisfied only when most of our students meet or exceed standards."
On the city tests, third-graders who scored Level 1 will be advised to go to summer school and may be held back, pending a review of their performance during the session and their other work during the past year.
Individual results arrived at borough schools Tuesday, but teachers and principals spent the week assembling and assessing each failing student's portfolio. If a student is found to be performing at Level 2 in the classroom, the principal can recommend promotion. If not, a letter was expected to be sent to each home by the end of the week.
Those parents receiving notices can sign their children up for summer school and to retake the city tests after the session. If a student still fails to pass, the principal will go back to their portfolio with the option to recommend promotion, based on department standards, All principal approvals must be passed by the superintendent.
City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), a member of the Education Committee, said he did not support social promotion but criticized the department's rush to make changes.
"That was a policy that really should have been thought out much more carefully," he said, adding that more emphasis should be placed on early childhood education and assessing the youngest students instead of focusing exclusively on third-graders.
Regarding the state test results, Liu said a few percentage points difference was not cause for concern and followed a statewide pattern, but he stressed that scores still needed to be raised. He also said some critics claimed third grade was chosen for the social promotion cutoff so fourth-grade scores would improve on state tests in 2005, a mayoral election year.
"There might be some validity to that," Liu said of the theory.
On the state tests, all borough school districts recorded an improvement in eighth-grade scores except District 29 in southeast Queens, which recorded a nearly 2 percent drop. But scores also declined for all fourth-graders except those in Astoria's District 30, which registered a 1 percent rise.
State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), a member of that body's Education Committee, called the results "mixed" but said they were not particularly alarming.
"Rome wasn't built in a day," she said.
A supporter of the new social promotion policy, Clark said the announcement regarding the change prompted parents to help their children even more. She said borough residents needed to get behind the city's educational reforms.
"We all need to invest in that," said Clark.
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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