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CPS changing its promotion policy

Published: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 9:46 a.m. CST

CHICAGO (MCT) — With more rigorous assessment tests this year creating concerns that the number of failing students could rise, Chicago Public Schools plans to revamp its promotion policy for third-, sixth- and eighth-graders.

Last school year, more than 4,600 CPS students scored below the 24th percentile on a portion of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test and were required to attend summer school before moving to the next grade level.

This school year, the district is introducing a more challenging assessment test from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) in preparation for the implementation of the Common Core curriculum. District officials said the new promotion policy is intended to ensure more students get the support they need during this transitional year.

The district has proposed dividing the lowest category under the current promotion policy into two groups. Students who score in the 11th to 23rd percentile on the new NWEA test will be required to attend summer school only if they fail to get at least a C in their final grade in math or reading. Students who score below the 10th percentile on the NWEA test would still be required to attend summer school.

"This current policy that we have has become outdated," said schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. "The new policy takes a much more balanced approached to measuring student success."

School officials said the policy does not in any way represent a return to the days when social promotions were common. The new policy, they said, will help educators identify failing students and give them support during the school year.

"I am not an advocate of social promotion," Byrd-Bennett said. "That is at best a level of impracticality and trickery with our students and parents that we would promote students who are not prepared to move to the challenges of the next grade level or the next sequence of their study.

"We don't intend to do that at all. As the state shifts the emphasis away from ISAT and we take a look at nationally normed evaluations that are aligned to Common Core, this shift is just necessary."

Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, has long argued that the district's policy on holding students back is too heavily based on assessment tests. She does not support the new policy, which continues to be based largely on test scores and, she said, is designed to save the expense of putting kids through summer school.

Woestehoff said summer school and holding students back are expensive propositions for the district. "CPS is paying for summer school, and in addition it's paying for an extra school year for students who in some years have been as many as 10,000," she said.

Last year, 13,980 CPS students attended summer school.

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by MCT Information Services

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