Fewer Students Repeat a Grade This Year

A third of New York City elementary and middle school students who failed state exams last spring were not promoted to the next grade level this school year, a decrease from the year before, when nearly half were held back.

City Department of Education officials released data on Friday showing how students who scored poorly on state exams in the spring fared after taking summer school classes in 2011. The officials attributed the increase in students who were promoted a grade to a rise in the number of students who were close to passing the tests in the spring, but just missed the bar.

After weeks of study, many of those students were able to pass the state exams on the second try, boosting the city's promotion numbers.

By the city's count, about 9,100 elementary and middle school students were not promoted this year, a decline from roughly 11,500 in 2010, when the number of students required to repeat a grade soared after state education officials raised the bar on math and English exams for students in the third through eighth grades. For years before the exams became more difficult, few students were required to attend summer school and fewer still failed to pass the tests by summer's end.

For the second year, the city sent more students to summer school than technically needed to go -- the result of a time lag between when the city must inform parents that their children might be held back and when the state reveals students' test scores. Without those test scores in hand, city officials sent 34,069 third through eighth graders to summer school. Months later, testing data revealed that only 27,824 students would have been required to attend.

As a direct result of the delayed test scores, far more students wound up in summer school this year than in the recent past. About 129,220 students enrolled in summer school this past summer, compared to 98,284 in 2010. Under former Chancellor Harold Levy, some 200,000 students were required to attend classes, though many did not attend.

Much of this year's growth is owed to an influx of high school students, many of whom enrolled in summer classes out of fear that they would need to pass the August Regents exams or wait an entire year to take them again. Before donors, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, stepped in to save the January Regents exams in August, they were to be sacrificed to budget cuts.

The skyrocketing enrollment figures did not mean that most of those high school students showed up to class. Daily attendance figures show that, on an average day, 50 percent of enrolled high school students were missing. For students in the third through eighth grade, average daily attendance was 73 percent.