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Students on the brink await letters

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Parents will soon know if their children are at risk of being left back.

Marcia Lyles, the city Department of Education’s (DOE) deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said schools will soon mail letters to parents of children who could be retained because of a tougher promotion policy for eighth-graders.

The letters will be sent to eighth-graders who either earned a Level One score on a standardized exam or failed a class in seventh grade.

“We’re sending out the letters very early this year as opposed to January,” Lyles explained at a meeting of District 18’s Community Education Council (CEC) on East 95th Street in Canarsie.

The new promotion policy was passed last year and is similar to policies already implemented in grades three, five and seven. Under the new rules, eighth-graders who fail standardized English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams will be held back. For added measure, students must pass all core academic subjects – English, math, social studies, and science – to gain promotion.

The DOE says it’s raising promotion standards to ensure that students enter high school with adequate reading and math skills. If students are prepared for high school-level work, officials believe the graduation rate will rise and the dropout rate will fall.

To prevent retention, schools are providing remedial and tutorial instruction to struggling eighth-graders.

“It is very important that we get the word out, whatever level your child is, because there are several supports that should be in your child’s school,” Lyles said. “You need to go to your child’s school and find out what’s available.”

Education activists have argued that the middle grades – six, seven and eight – are often when students fall behind. They say curriculums fail to engage students who are dealing with their physical and emotional development.

Lyles acknowledged that middle schools are in need of improvement.

“We lose ground in middle school,” she said. “We are in a crisis. Not only in New York City but New York State.”

City and state standardized test scores have shown that student achievement declines once children reach junior high school.

“How your child does in elementary school will influence how your child does in middle school and high school,” Lyles said.

“Eighth grade performance strongly impacts on high school graduation,” she added.

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