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Klein unveils $25M plan to evaluate third-graders

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Schools Chancellor Joel Klein turned his attention to third-graders last week as he unveiled a host of intervention programs designed to help borough and city students advance to the fourth grade with the necessary reading and math skills.

Speaking in front of the New York Urban League last Thursday, Klein outlined a two-pronged approach to identify and then support third-graders who need additional help before they move on to the fourth grade. He said the initiative would end the practice of social promotion, which advances students to subsequent grades regardless of their academic performances, and could mean students will be held back if they do not satisfy academic standards.

“No one wants to hold students behind. So large numbers of students are promoted even though those students are not prepared for the next grade,” Klein said. “The result is that many students are passed through the system from one grade to another without the necessary preparation skills. These students typically fall further and further behind until they ultimately leave school unprepared.”

The chancellor said the city will spend $25 million to end the practice of social promotion, a move which politicians and educators have requested for years.

Klein said the city Department of Education will now require third-grade students to pass state literacy and math standards before moving on to the fourth grade. He also said borough and city third-graders who need academic help will be taught by teachers with special training to address those needs, while new Student Success Teams will regularly review individual students’ cases and track their progress.

On top of the increased monitoring, students will now be offered tutoring in small groups two or three times a week either before or after school and on vacation and weekends, Klein said. There will also be a new Summer Success Academy, an intensive summer program designed to help third- and second-graders learn basic reading, writing and math skills.

The academy will have no more than 15 students per classroom and help students who did not pass standardized tests achieve better results when they can take the test again.

“By going down this road, we shine a public spotlight not only on what we expect from our students but, as importantly, on what we expect from ourselves,” Klein said. “Unless we are prepared to take the steps necessary to educate students to a level that enables them to move on to fourth grade, holding them back is ultimately an empty act.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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