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City to Reinstate Social Promotion for Some Failing Students

Hundreds of students will move to the next grade this fall despite failing state tests, officials said.
Hundreds of students will move to the next grade this fall despite failing state tests, officials said.
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DNAinfo/Michael Oates

NEW YORK — Young students who fail more than one grade won't automatically be held back anymore, in a reversal of a policy championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Department of Education officials announced.

After finding that students who repeat multiple grades are more likely to drop out of high school, the city will give some failing students in third through eighth grades the chance to advance to the next grade with their peers, as long as they are showing at least some improvement, officials said.

Bloomberg has strongly opposed social promotion in the past, calling it "a terrible concept" in 2004, according to reports.

But the DOE recently found that 46 percent of children who were held back more than once drop out before they graduate from high school, compared to 29 percent of children who were held back once and 11 percent of those who were not held back at all, the city said.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the DOE's chief academic officer, acknowledged in a letter to principals last Friday that being held back multiple times "can be detrimental for students."

"We are introducing supports and a policy update for these struggling students," Polakow-Suransky said in the letter. "Beginning this summer, you may recommend these students for promotion in August if they have shown gains on multiple measures of performance."

Students must show progress in at least two performance areas, which include state tests, city assessments and student work, the DOE said.

About 900 elementary and middle school students are expected to fail a grade for the second time this year, and the city estimates that about half of them will be eligible for promotion to the next grade under the new policy.

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the changes in July, and the new policy will go into effect in August, in time to promote the students before school starts in September, the DOE said.

The city is also providing additional funding for third-through-eighth-grade students who are two or more years behind in classes. Schools will receive $336 over the summer and $1,200 during the school year for each of those students, to pay for academic and social support for the children, Polakow-Suransky said.