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Regents Vote Spares Districts from Extra Instruction for All Failing Students

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The New York State Board of Regents approved a waiver so school districts don't have to provide extra instruction for thousands of students who failed their annual math and English exams.

Districts normally have to provide academic intervention services for students who score below the "proficient" level on their state math and reading tests. But tens of thousands more students failed this year because the state made its exams tougher to pass. The state feared that if districts had to provide every one of those students with costly academic interventions that it could lead to even greater budget cuts. 

As a result of the vote, school districts don't have to provide services to students who failed this year but would have scored at the proficient level using last year's scoring system. This means only the lowest performing students (all Level 1's and maybe some low Level 2's) qualify for academic interventions this year.

State Education Commissioner David Steiner says "this action strikes an important balance: it ensures that districts provide continued intervention services to the students with the greatest needs while allowing districts flexibility to manage their limited resources in this transition year.

"Undoubtedly, school leaders will want to provide extra help to as many students as they can," he added. "But to force them to do more when very tight budgets are already set would require many of them to make bad educational trade-offs -- such as reducing course offerings."

But New York City Public Advocate Bill De Blasio had spoken out against granting the waiver because he feared too many low-performing students would not get the help they need. He said the state had let districts off the hook because they weren't even required "to show us that you are taking care of these kids who would have been considered failing if the test scores were accurate." De Blasio was referring to the state's admission that it's tests had gotten too easy before it made them tougher to pass this year.

Commissioner Steiner said he believed districts would still do whatever they could to help these students. New York City's Department of Education says it's still committed to serving all students. For example, officials say principals can find ways of giving students who failed by a slim margin some additional instruction in their regular classes.

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