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Appeals Process for 3rd Graders Explained
February 27, 2004 | By ELISSA GOOTMAN | New York Times
Softening a new city policy, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein yesterday sketched out the framework of an appeals process for students who fail their third-grade tests so that some of them can avoid being held back.
The policy, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed in his State of the City address last month, would hold back all third graders who score in the lowest of four levels on standardized tests given in April.
The announcement on Tuesday of an appeals process, and yesterday's description of how it will work, came after weeks of mounting criticism by parents, children's advocates and researchers, who have described the policy as overly harsh and said it could backfire, hurting students more than it helps them.
At the news conference, Mr. Klein, who was joined by Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott and Diana Lam, the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, also announced the receipt of $8 million from the mayor's office for tutoring and other programs to help third graders in danger of being held back. Ms. Lam said warning letters were sent to the parents of some 31,000 children in that category.
Mr. Klein said the appeals process had been added not for political reasons but because he had become convinced that it was "right for our students."
"I'm adamant about one thing: doing what's right for our students," Mr. Klein said. "I'll always be adamant about that. I'm not going to be concerned with the politics of that, and I think people know that.
"People say to me, well, it's possible the test doesn't accurately capture'' a student's capabilities, the chancellor continued. "And if that's true, I want to make sure the system is sensitive to that. I want to minimize any errors."
The third-grade retention policy still requires the approval of the Panel for Educational Policy, an oversight board that has, so far, routinely endorsed Department of Education proposals.
According to the appeals process outlined yesterday, parents whose third graders score at the lowest level on either the math or English tests will have the opportunity to meet with their child's teachers to discuss a possible appeal after scores are released in June. If the teacher agrees that the test score was an aberration, the teacher can file an appeal with the school's principal.
The final decision will be made by the school's instructional superintendent in August. In the meantime, students who score in Level 1 will be encouraged to enroll in a new third-grade summer school program that is part of the larger plan.
News of the appeals process allayed some critics' concerns about the policy, which now looks more like the policy it would replace.
"This is clearly an improvement, but it's still a work in progress," said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.
Saying she was not satisfied with the information she had received about the summer school program and other interventions for lagging students, Ms. Weingarten added, "I still would not be able to tell you what their plan is."
Eva S. Moskowitz, chairwoman of the City Council Education Committee, hailed what she described as "significant improvements," but nonetheless submitted a council resolution yesterday recommending that the department reconsider its policy, perhaps in favor of earlier programs like an extra year of kindergarten.
"I still maintain that where we need the help and services is much earlier on," she said.
Leonie Haimson, founder of Class Size Matters, a parent advocacy group, said she was dissatisfied with a process in which parents cannot go above teachers' heads to file appeals.
At the news conference, Mr. Walcott cited statistics indicating that children who perform far below grade level when they are young continue to underperform when pushed along, saying, "We have to turn that around."
Mr. Klein defended the promotion policy, saying the appeals process strengthened it.
"I think the test, generally speaking, is a very reliable indicator," he said. "However, every system I think should have a certain flexibility in there, and I think we've built in the proper flexibility. But I don't see this as a way to go back to the old policies whatsoever."
Last night, the organizations 100 Black Men and the Association for a Better New York presented Mr. Klein with a brotherhood award.
In presenting the award, the president of the New York chapter of 100 Black Men, Paul T. Williams Jr., praised the plan to end social promotion.
"Social promotion is no promotion at all,'' Mr. Williams said. "It's passing the buck.''
|produced by Naava Katz Design|