By Michael Morton
The exams in math and English were initially given in June and represented the first time the results were used to determine who would graduate from third grade, an effort by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to end social promotion.In Queens, 16,835 third-graders were held to the new policy, and 2,244 failed one or both of the tests in the first round. The schoolwork of those who failed was then taken into consideration, and 275 received a promotion. Some of those students still voluntarily attended the city's Summer Success Academy as did a majority of those whose schoolwork was not judged satisfactory. An exact figure for borough attendance was not available. The Department of Education said 1,049 of the 2,244 students who failed in the spring passed the second time around, a 46.7 percent rate. The majority of the rest will again be entered into an appeals process and have their schoolwork assessed by their teacher. An exact figure for the group, many of whom could be held back, could not be determined since some of the students who won an appeal the first time around took a retest anyway and were included in Department of Education statistics.For those students now in the appeals process, their principal must pass any recommendation on to the community superintendent, who has the final say. If that recourse does not work, a parent can file a separate appeal, again to be considered by the superintendent. Decisions were supposed to be made by Aug. 20, at which point parents were to be notified. Bloomberg and Klein hailed the results of the retests and touted their policy of ending social promotion.”Unlike in the past, when students were done a great disservice and promoted to the next grade unprepared, students now receive the support and attention they need to move on,” Bloomberg said. “The extra attention clearly makes a difference.”Citywide, 10,398 third-graders failed one or both of the tests, with 1,510 of those earning promotion based on their schoolwork. Of the 8,888 remaining students, 3,906, or 44 percent, passed the retest and will move on to fourth grade. The rest, consisting of 4,982 students, had their schoolwork reviewed again and could be held back. Last year, 4,817 third-graders were not promoted, but 1,712 of them were special education or non-native English speakers, two groups exempt from the new policy.The city spent $8 million on spring programs for the students who had been identified by teachers as in danger of failing the first round of tests, then poured an additional $32 million into the Summer Success Academy for third-graders. The Department of Education said the passage rate for the retest at the end of the academy was more than double the 19 percent rate from summer school the year before, when the exams were used as a general evaluation tool, not necessarily as a strict promotion yardstick.But the new promotion policy was criticized nonetheless.”The real question now is whether these new students have really attained the skills that will allow them to keep up with their classmates during the coming year or is it just a short-term gain that will have no lasting effect on their educational abilities?” rhetorically asked principals' union head Jill Levy.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.