Summer success

New York City’s ban on social promotion means that children who’ve fallen behind get help with reading, writes Samuel Freedman in the New York Times. He talks to the mother of a third grader who scored at the lowest level in the reading test.

Instead of resisting, instead of complaining, instead of impugning the test or the teacher or the mayor, (Susan) Pellecier postponed her family’s vacation to Florida and consented to have Dominique attend the Summer Success Academy at P.S. 200. What both mother and daughter understood, if few of the mayor’s critics did, was that passing along a child in academic trouble is a recipe for disaster.

“Of course, I want Dominique to go to fourth grade,” Ms. Pellecier said. “But I know she’s not reading well enough. If she has to repeat a grade, better now than later. As a parent, it’s only natural to want to do whatever’s going to help your kid.”

So Dominique has spent the last five weeks in Room 312, where the dominant sound is of that all-too-rare commodity in education: common sense. Along with just nine other pupils, roughly one-third the size of a class during the regular school year, Dominique gets the attention of a teacher named Elizabeth McCormack. The group works in unbroken blocks as long as 75 minutes on both basic skills and test preparation in reading and math, with lessons carefully scripted for focus and consistency. Every day, each child also receives 10 minutes of personal drilling in phonics with an aide.

In the afternoon, children can do sports and art.

Almost all parents of children scoring at the lowest reading level have enrolled their children in summer classes at P.S. 200, Freedman writes. Attendance is above 90 percent. Parents also are enrolling second graders, who aren’t required to take summer classes, hoping they’ll improve their skills and pass the third grade test.

To put it somewhat differently, scoring at Level 1 on the third-grade test is a sign of serious problems: a child who can read the words of an age-appropriate book, for instance, but not really grasp what they mean or the story they tell. And if the test can serve as an early-warning system, however imperfectly, then it helps meet a need that many educators have long recognized.

“We have to stop stigmatizing being held over,” said Phyliss Bullion, the principal of P.S. 200. “Does it matter if you graduate high school at 17 or 18 or 19? It’s more important you come out with the skills you need to survive in the world.”

The parents seem to get it.

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  1. I seem to frequently hear from the bigwigs that we have to (as in must) do social promotion because research and studies show that holding students back makes them lose hope and drop out. Making a student repeat a year is not an option.

    Do these studies actually exist? Can anyone point me to them?