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The Nation

N.Y. Panel OKs Plan to Retain Students

March 16, 2004|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — An education panel has approved a plan for New York City's public school children that would end automatic promotion to the fourth grade, holding back as many as 15,000 third-graders who fail standardized English and mathematics tests.

The plan, approved by an 8-5 vote Monday evening, is an important part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's blueprint for remaking the nation's largest school system.

Opponents of the plan say that basing advancement to the fourth grade on one test is unfair, that being left behind stigmatizes children and that the plan will be too costly.

They also say that holding back up to 20% of the city's 75,000 third-graders means that overall test scores for fourth-graders will probably improve next year. This, they say, would ease the mayor's path to reelection because school districts place heavy emphasis on fourth-grade test scores.

The Republican mayor has made improving the 1.1-million-student system the focus of his first term and said that, if he fails, voters should not reelect him in 2005.

Bloomberg said Monday that ending so-called social promotion will help lagging students who otherwise would be sent on to the fourth grade with little chance of catching up to classmates.

Under the proposal, which will cost about $33 million in the first year, third-graders who score at the lowest of four rankings on citywide English or math tests will not be promoted to the fourth grade. They'll have the option of retaking the tests after summer school, and teachers will have the right to appeal on a student's behalf.

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