In a big step forward for real school reform, Néw York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina announced that promotion would no longer be based in a single standardized test, but on multiple measures. This is a major change from the Bloomberg era, when test scores were the single most crucial determinant of whether students would be promoted or failed.

Here is the announcement:


Multiple Measures to Replace State Test as Driver of Promotion Decisions

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced changes to the Department of Education’s promotion policy for students in grades 3-8 with standard promotion criteria. The proposed new policy, upon approval of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), would go into effect this school year in order to comply with recent changes in State law and to allow educators to make decisions about the students they know best while maintaining high standards. The policy will be voted on at the PEP meeting in May.

“We have listened and worked closely with families, teachers and principals to establish a new promotion policy that complies with State law and empowers educators, takes the temperature down around testing, and keeps rigorous standards in place,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “This new way forward maintains accountability, but mitigates the unintended consequences of relying solely on a single test. Through a comprehensive evaluation of student work using multiple measures, our new policy is a step forward for students, parents, and schools.”

“It’s absolutely vital that students are ready to succeed in the next grade when they are promoted. The best way to do that, as the governor and legislature have affirmed, is to use multiple measures to make sure students are ready for promotion,” said New York Education Commissioner John King. “We’ll work together with NYCDOE to make sure all our students are on the path to college and career readiness.”

Ten years ago, the DOE implemented a student promotion policy based on State exam scores. That approach, while intended to raise expectations for all students, often led to teachers “teaching to the test” and caused a great deal of anxiety in school communities.

Going forward, instead of having student promotion from one grade to the next based solely on exam results, teachers and principals will now determine which students are at risk of not making sufficient progress based on a more comprehensive, authentic review of their classroom work in addition to their test scores. This shift to multiple measures represents another important step toward aligning our teaching with the more rigorous Common Core standards. This new approach will bring New York City in accordance with other districts in the State and with the recent changes to the State law.

To develop the new policy, the Department consulted with and gathered feedback from families, teachers, principals, and education advocates. Many identified that, under the current policy, a student’s body of work over the course of the entire year was overlooked in favor of a single, standardized exam. To remedy those concerns and incorporate multiple measures in accordance with State law, the DOE plans to implement several important changes:

· Empowering Educators – Based on a review of student work from the year, teachers and principals will identify the students they believe may be at risk of not being able to succeed in the next grade, even with support. State test results for the lowest-performing students will continue to be shared with schools in June. Schools may use this information as one of multiple pieces of evidence to assess student readiness for the next grade level, but they may not use it as the primary or major factor in those decisions.

· Authentic Student Work – Teachers will complete promotion portfolios for students identified for possible retention. The guidance provided to schools about this process will be revised so that student promotion portfolios align to the Common Core, represent real classroom learning, and incorporate student work already completed throughout the school year.

· Consistent, Rigorous Standards – The reviews of student portfolios in schools across the city will be judged against clear, consistent, criteria aligned to the Common Core. Superintendents will oversee this process for their schools.

“The NYC Department of Education’s new promotion policy reflects the best available research and is good common sense,” said Dr. Linda Darling Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford Graduate School of Education. “Students are more than test results, and this sound policy reflects that fact. Promotion decisions will be based on multiple measures and will consist of a comprehensive review of the skills they’ve learned in the classroom. In addition, children will receive more useful supports to improve their skills so they can progress on a solid foundation.”

“The new promotion policy recognizes the scientific consensus that promotion and retention decisions should never be based solely on a child’s performance on a single standardized test,” said Dr. Aaron Pallas, Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College at Columbia University. “This change returns the responsibility of assessing a child’s readiness for the next grade to the educators most knowledgeable about his or her academic performance throughout the school year — the child’s teacher and principal.”

“Although the old policy was designed to end social promotion through grade retention, thousands of students were still entering high schools throughout New York City unprepared academically,” said Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Development at New York University. “The Chancellor’s proposal will provide schools with a broader range of tools with which to assess a student’s performance. If these can be combined with effective, early interventions, we should see a significant increase in the number of students who graduate from high school college ready.”

As in past years, students whose promotion portfolios demonstrate that they are not ready for the next grade level, even with support, will be recommended for summer school. Superintendents will review school-level decisions before they are finalized. In the past, when students completed summer school, their promotion was ultimately tied to a second standardized test in August. This year, student work from summer school will be incorporated into the promotion portfolio. Principals will review these portfolios in August and make a holistic promotion decision for each student. Superintendents will continue to review promotion appeals for cases in which a parent disagrees with the principal’s decision.

In 2013, consistent with prior school years, approximately 10% of students in grades 3-8 were recommended for summer school, with 2.5% ultimately retained. The DOE anticipates consistent levels of retention with this new approach.

Students with disabilities and English language learners who have different promotion criteria will not be impacted by this change in policy. Moreover, the promotion policy for students in grades K-2 and high school will remain consistent with previous years.

The new policy requires a revision to the Chancellor’s Regulation A-501, which will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its May 29, 2014 meeting. If the PEP approves the policy, the revised policy will go into effect this year.