New NYC schools policy: Tests alone won't decide promotions

Art McFarland reports on a new promotion policy for NYC schools
April 10, 2014 3:35:39 AM PDT
Test scores alone won't hold back kids in the five boroughs of New York City.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina wants to roll back a policy put in place under the Bloomberg Administration, and change the criteria for which students make it to the next grade.

"It's a good thing first of all because it's very clear that the old policy wasn't working," said NYU education professor Pedro Noguera, among the experts who agree that promotion decisions should be based on much more than a system determined only not to promote failing students.

"It was a failure because we never really asked, why were they failing, what did they need more of," said Noguera.

If the proposal is approved, promotions will be based on student work, including course grades, writing samples, class projects and other assignments.

Promotion portfolios prepared by teachers will be part of the decisions, and principals will ultimately decide, with district superintendent supervision.

A Brooklyn protest last Friday is just one example of a growing revolt among parents and educators over the state tests in English and math.

"We pretty much feel like we've been had; that these tests just don't assess anything, and yet they have incredibly high stakes attached to them," said PS 321 principal Elizabeth Phillips.

Also proposed, the summer school exam would be replaced by a complete examination of student readiness for promotion, and parent appeals can still be heard when they disagree with principals. Superintendents would make the final decision.

"So what I'm hoping this new policy will do is force schools to think more creatively about how to make sure they're meeting the needs of students," said Noguera. "What do the grades mean, how do we assess a child's performance and make sure that when they are going to advance a grade that they are prepared. If they are not prepared, we take actions to effectively intervene."

The policy change must be approved by the Panel for Educational Policy at its May 29 meeting.

The teachers' and principals' unions praised the policy change.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said changing the promotion policy is "just common sense."

Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan said the change means children will be treated "more humanely." The new policy affects students in grades 3 through 8.