A bitter fight is expected tonight
when the Panel for Education Policy votes on whether to hold back
eighth-graders who don’t meet promotion standards.
Few believe the panel – which
includes eight mayoral appointees, including Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, as
well as each of the five borough presidents – will veto the measure. But
opponents of the strict policy vowed not to simply roll over.
"I think the mood is going to
be very angry in that room," said Ernesto Maldonado, a Bronx
parent and founding member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.
If approved, the policy would go
into effect in the next school year and eighth-graders, like those in grades 3,
4 and 7, would be required to score at least a 2 out of 4 on annual state
reading and math tests to be promoted.
Eighth-graders are now promoted even
if they don’t make the grade academically – a policy known as "social
Opponents of the initiative – mostly
parents – argued that punishing students without giving them extra support is
all stick and no carrot.
In 2004, it took an 11th-hour switch
of three panel members to end social promotion in the third grade.
To this day, it’s the closest the panel
has come to vetoing any proposal since it was created to replace the Board of
Education in 2002.
Similar policies were enacted for
grades 5 and 7 in 2005 and 2006.
Since Mayor Bloomberg announced his
latest proposal for eighth-graders in January – a policy that last year could
have seen as many as 18,000 kids left back – criticism has been steadily
Last week, about 50 members of the
Coalition for Educational Justice** stormed Department of Education
headquarters seeking to delay the vote until school officials can detail the
extra support they’re prepared to give middle-school kids.
On Friday, Bronx Borough President
Adolfo Carrión Jr. also urged Klein to postpone the vote, based in part on the
cost of holding thousands of kids back in the midst of massive budget cuts.
Education Department spokesman
Andrew Jacob said officials agreed with parents that more support is needed for
middle-school students – and that they were taking steps to provide it.
"Improving middle schools and
holding students to higher standards are not mutually exclusive ideas," he
Make the Road New York, a founding
and active member of the Coalition