American Renaissance

Parents Flunk Mike’s No-Promotion Plan

Carl Campanile and David Seifman, New York Post, Feb. 11

February 11, 2004 — The city’s largest parents group has joined the revolt against Mayor Bloomberg’s new policy of holding back third-graders who do poorly on high-stakes math or reading exams — charging it discriminates and punishes mostly minority students.

“Our position is ‘no’ on retention. It’s punitive and unfair,” said Robin Brown, head of the United Parents Association of New York City. “There’s been no consultation with parents, teachers, principals or experts.”

The parents group, in a resolution, cited research indicating that retention is “highly damaging” to students held back and leads not to higher achievement, but higher dropout rates.

“The practice of widespread retention also has a disproportionate effect on black and Hispanic children . . . and thus has a discriminatory impact.”

Even people who generally support higher standards are opposing it. “It takes away discretion from teachers,” said City Council Education Committee Chairwoman Eva Moskowitz (D-Manhattan).

In grades 4-8, student promotions are based on attendance and classwork, as well as on results on standardized exams.

NYU Professor Diane Ravitch, long a proponent of tougher standards, also gave a thumbs-down to the policy. “A policy of having 7-and 8-year-olds flunk is draconian,” she said.

Bloomberg defended the policy on WLIB radio, calling social promotion an “absolute disgrace.”

“People say, ‘Well, the child’s self-esteem will be hurt if they’re kept back.’ What about their self-esteem if everybody else in the room is reading and they can’t?” he said.

And these failing students get frustrated, the mayor added, and become disruptive. “Let’s stop it and teach the kids to read. Third grade is the right grade to do it in because it’s the first time we have some tests. . . . Nobody gets hurt this way. Everybody gets helped.”

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein also defended the policy. He noted the vast majority of young students doing poorly in the early grades are candidates to drop out or flunk out of high school.