Friday, January 18

New 8th grade promotion rules "stricter" than those in other grades

More details are emerging on the mayor's new plan to "end social promotion" in 8th grade. According to the New York Times, the 8th grade rules are "stricter" than those already in place in grades 3, 5, and 7 because students will have to pass all of their core subjects as well as score a 2 or higher on state tests. Last year, the Times reports, about a quarter of 8th graders failed to meet these standards.

No one's suggesting that a quarter of 8th graders will really have to stay in middle school, but as I noted yesterday, summer schools are sure to expand in 2009, when the first set of kids affected by the new policy finishes 8th grade. The Daily News notes that Chancellor Klein plans to head off "mass flunkings" by putting in place stronger intervention strategies earlier in middle school — but without new funds to support those strategies, it's not clear how schools with lots of struggling students will be able to offer intensive support to their weakest students and at the same time scale up their advanced offerings, as a policy announced last summer is requiring them to do.

Advocates for Children Director Kim Sweet told the Daily News, "We're very concerned that kids are being stuck in the eighth grade who can't meet the requirements to graduate currently and are already over-age and unable to get into high school." The new policy could exacerbate that problem.

Fortunately, the Times has some small consolation for advocates and over-age kids, noting, "Officials said it was unlikely that eighth graders who had already been held back twice would be retained a third time."

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