"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bloomberg Strikes Again

Thanks to Bloomberg's progressive vision, NYC has moved ahead of Louisiana in the Battle of the Testers. New York can now boast that it has tests to determine grade promotion in grades 3, 5, and 7:
August 16, 2005

Panel Votes to Hold Back 7th Graders Who Fail English Test

The Bloomberg administration won approval of a new seventh-grade promotion policy last night during a contentious meeting at the Department of Education's Lower Manhattan headquarters, where the Panel for Educational Policy voted in favor of holding back seventh graders who fail citywide English tests starting next year.

Although three members of the panel were absent and two abstained, a resolution to adopt new promotion standards for seventh graders received eight votes -- one more than needed to win approval. But before the vote, several protesters in the audience stood and, with scarves tied around their mouths, turned their backs to the panel.

During the approximately 15 minutes allowed for public comment, several other people criticized education officials for tying students' promotion to success on standardized tests. Others said that the new policy placed undue blame on students for what is, ultimately, the system's failure to educate.

But none of those objections compared to the avalanche of complaints that followed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's first announcement of tougher promotion rules for third graders in early 2004. Back then, the Panel for Educational Policy threatened to veto the plan. Mr. Bloomberg won approval only after he fired two of his appointees to the panel and the Staten Island borough president dismissed a third.

During a presentation about the promotions standards for seventh-graders last night, the city's deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, Carmen Fariña, told a roomful of parents and teachers that the administration's promotion rules introduced during the past two years for third and fifth graders had produced ''a tremendous amount of achievement.''

In fact, the administration's policies to end so-called social promotion in the lower grades have meant that fewer children have been held back, not more, mainly because of intense and expensive remedial efforts.

''It's time to do the same thing for middle school students so they can be successful in high school,'' Ms. Fariña said. She added that the initiative was not about punishment but about ''being prepared.''

Mr. Bloomberg first vowed in May to take on the issue of poor performance in junior high school after fewer students passed the state's eighth-grade reading test than in last year. Fewer than a third of the city's eighth graders were reading at or above grade level, according to the most recent scores.

The administration has pledged $40 million toward intervention efforts for the middle grades, including, Ms. Fariña said last night, Saturday classes, organizational and study skills workshops for students, counseling for parents of adolescents, and more teacher training.

''If we do not do this, we are dooming students to fail in high school,'' she said.

Once new state math requirements take effect during the school year 2006-7, promotions for seventh graders will be tied to scores on both of the city's standardized reading and math tests.

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