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Test day for third graders
April 19, 2004 | By Wil Cruz and Curtis L. Taylor
Tuesday is a big, and possibly stressful, day for thousands of third-grade students in the city school system.
As part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to end so-called social promotions, 80,000 third-graders will be required to take an English test that could lead to 15,000 of them being held back from the fourth grade. They face a second promotion test on mathematics next Tuesday.
The tests were approved by the 13-member Panel for Educational Policy last month.
The tests prompted two protests Monday by parents who complained that the exams are unfair and weighted in favor of white students.
Councilman Charles Barron, appearing at the panel's first meeting since last month's vote, called the testing program appalling.
"Fifty years on the other side of Brown versus the Board of Education and now we have a test that has 11 questions favoring white students," Barron (D-Brownsville) said. "The test is racist ... and we are saying it should not happen."
About 200 protesters packed last night's meeting at the Tweed Courthouse, chanting "Give the kids their rights."
At one point, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein threatened to halt the meeting. "We can clear the room if people want to keep screaming," he said. "We will proceed orderly."
Jane Hirschmann, the head of Time Out for Testing, blamed the mayor for the uneasiness. "He's using our children for a political purpose," she said. "We will not let him decide our children's future."
One student, Elizabeth Mello, 9, a third-grader at PS 87 on the Upper West Side, held up a placard reading: "Don't Test Me, Teach me."
Under the testing plan, third-graders who score at Level 1 -- the lowest of four rankings -- will be red-flagged to repeat the third grade and will either have to take the exam again after summer school or go through a lengthy appeals process.
Those scoring at Level 2 will be allowed to enter fourth grade, even though that level is also below basic standards. Earlier, about 50 parents and students picketed against the tests outside City Hall.
Leonel Navas of University Heights said he was thinking about keeping his daughter home to give her extra time to study for the August makeup exam.
"My daughter has been feeling a lot of stress like most of the kids," Navas said of his daughter, Laura, a third-grader at PS 54 in the Bronx.
After the meeting, Klein said the testing is "necessary so that we don't continue to promote children who are not prepared."
He also criticized parents who threatened to have their children stay home. "People should have their kids come to school and participate," he said. "That's what it is all about."
Copyright (c) 2004, Newsday, Inc.
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