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New student promotion policy demotes test scores

Multiple measures to determine if students advance to next grade
New York Teacher

Test scores in grades 3 through 8 will no longer be the dominant factor in deciding which students are promoted, according to a new policy unveiled on April 9 by Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

Teachers and principals will also consider other measures — including class projects, grades and writing samples — in deciding which students should advance to the next grade. The Department of Education called it “a more comprehensive, authentic review of their classroom work in addition to test scores.”

The policy change, which the Panel on Educational Policy is expected to approve when it meets on May 29, will go into effect this year.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew applauded the change. “A child is more than a single test score, more than what happens in a few hours of tests on a couple of days out of the school year,” he said. “It is time that New York City takes into account all the work a child does the rest of the year, in the classroom, where the real learning takes place.”

Fariña had signaled early in her tenure that she was unhappy with using standardized test scores as the determining factor in deciding whether a child would advance to the next grade. The new policy will bring New York City into compliance with a state law enacted on April 1 requiring school districts to use multiple measures in deciding promotions.

“We have listened and worked closely with families, teachers and principals to establish a new promotion policy that complies with state law and empowers educators, takes the temperature down around testing, and keeps rigorous standards in place,” Fariña said.

Ten years ago, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg “ended social promotion” by requiring students who scored at the lowest of four levels of the exams to attend summer school. Another standardized test was administered in August to determine if those students should be held back.

The UFT and other critics said the high-stakes tests created an atmosphere of fear and anxiety in the classroom and gave teachers no alternative but to teach to the test — devouring time that could have been spent on art, music and other subjects. The outcry grew when scores plummeted on the new Common Core tests last spring.

Under the new policy, the test at the end of summer school will also be abolished, and instead principals and teachers will decide whether or not to advance a student based on class work during the summer session.

DOE officials predicted that the number of students held back each year would probably remain about the same.

Related Topics: News Stories, Testing