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DOE Changing Policy So That Failing State Tests Does Not Mean Automatic Ticket to Summer School

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There might be a little less pressure on the nearly 500,000 city kids taking state standardized tests this month, as the Department of Education is changing its policy: failing the exams will no longer mean an automatic ticket to summer school. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

For the past decade, students in grades three through eight who did not pass state tests in reading and math were pretty much required to go to summer school or repeat a grade. But not anymore. 

"For some kids, I think it will have an effect because I know that they're really stressed out about taking the state tests," said one student.

"I get kind of nervous when I'm taking a test," said another. "Throughout the whole school year, I do really well and I get good grades, so one test shouldn't determine everything."
 
The rule was one of the first major changes Mayor Michael Bloomberg made after he won control of the school system. He'd called it "the end of social promotion."

However, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have repeatedly said they intended to change the hard-and-fast policy, and earlier this month, as part of the state budget deal, lawmakers required that the city stop making promotion decisions based only on test scores, something that hasn't been happening anywhere else in the state. 

On Wednesday, the DOE officially announced the changes.

"It's very exciting to be able to say that there are multiple ways to evaluate kids, that we don't depend on one sole criteria for deciding many things about children, particularly promotion," Fariña said.

Schools will now prepare portfolios for students who they think might not be ready for the next grade. Then, principals are supposed to make decisions based on several factors, which could include report card grades, writing samples, attendance and state test scores. 

The chancellor said she actually agrees with the previous administration that students should not be promoted if they're not ready, but she said students' school work over the course of an entire year should matter. 

"If it's consistently not on grade level, well then that's a really good reason for either repeating the grade or going to summer school," Fariña said.

That means when it comes to the overall numbers, the DOE doesn't actually expect much to change, at least this year. Officials said they expect about 10 percent of students will be recommended for summer school, and about 2.5 percent will ultimately repeat a grade, similar to last year. It's just that those students won't necessarily be the ones with the lowest test scores.

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