No More Social Promotion: 400 Paterson Students Learn That Lesson the Hard Way
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 • 7:54am
PATERSON, NJ – At least 400 city elementary school students were left back this year as a result of the district’s decision to discontinue social promotion, an informal policy that had allowed children to advance grades even if they didn’t learn the required material.
Those 400 children were among 1,700 Paterson students required to attend summer school this year, officials said. Of those, 1,300 showed enough improvement during the summer to earn promotion to the next grade, according to district spokeswoman, Terry Corallo. The remaining 400, or 23 percent of them, were left back, officials said.
“It’s a high number that we would like to see reduced,’’ said school board member Manuel Martinez. “But we had to stop the practice of just pushing them through the system. That didn’t benefit the kids.’’
Board member Chrystal Cleaves said, “If any child doesn’t get promoted, that should be a concern for all of us. Our goal should be to make sure that every child gets promoted. Our goal is to make every child is educated.’’
Exactly how many students were left back in previous years is unclear. PatersonPress.com asked Corallo that question at the end of August and still has not yet received the numbers. Corallo said she is waiting for another school official, whose name she did not disclose, to provide the information.
“With regard to past years, approximately the same number of students attended summer school but it was not mandatory – and there was no assessment at the end to gauge if the student made progress,’’ Coralllo said. “This is the first year that the program was mandatory and that students were retained if they did not make adequate progress,’’ as measured by the STARS assessment.
“Further, this year, the students attended for Math or Language Arts – not both – that is also different,’’ Coralllo added. “Students needed to show progress in the subject area where they struggled the most.’’
State-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans announced the discontinuation of social promotion in April, more than two-thirds of the way into the school year. Some parents complained they had not received enough advance notice about such a significant change.
Education advocates supported the change, saying it was important that district instill academic standards. But they also expressed concerns about the way the district implemented the change.
Some school board members said the district has not done a good job looking after those students who were left back. They argued that the district should have provided special programs for those children this fall to help them catch up.
“I don’t think there was a plan in place about what to do to address that problem,’’ said school board member Errol Kerr. “Now we’re faced with the challenge. These kids need better instruction. They need some special time.’’
Kerr also warned that leaving struggling students behind to repeat the year could prove to be a disruption for the younger students moving up into the grade.
Board member Corey Teague said he was concerned that students who were left back might become embarrassed or discouraged. “We’ve got to work harder with these kids,’’ said Teague.
This year, Evans had made sure that all families know in advance the risk that failing students would be left back. In August, he sent them a letter about the end of the social promotion practice.
“It is important for all parents to understand that if your child’s educational performance does not meet the district’s promotion policy, he or she will be required to attend a mandatory summer school program before being promoted to the next grade level,’’ Evans wrote.
“Our school district is committed to ensuring that the children of Paterson receive a quality education that will prepare them for college and their chosen career,’’ Evans added.