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Education Reporter

California Kids Failing
Plan to end social promotion may be modified
LOS ANGELES, CA - A policy requiring students to meet new state standards in order to be promoted to the next grade may soon be relaxed due to the overwhelming numbers of students expected to fail. As many as half the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), for example, the state's largest and the nation's second-largest, would likely fail new state-mandated standardized tests if the plan were to be implemented immediately. Even if performance measures were limited to teacher evaluations, approximately 40% of students would fall short.

Last year, the California state legislature passed a law adopting new standards that were designed to end what outgoing Governor Pete Wilson called "the tragedy of social promotion." These standards were scheduled to be phased in by 2001, and students would be required to meet them before being promoted to the next grade level.

Fearing that implementation of the new program will overload summer school and tutoring programs that are set up to help failing students, LAUSD officials have revised the plan to include only 2nd and possibly 8th-grade students initially, with other grades to be phased in later.

A debate is raging among LAUSD School Board members about whether or not to institute separate educational tracks for limited-English students and native English-speaking students. According to an article in the New York Times (12-2-99), 45% of the students in the district have limited or no English skills, and about 80 different languages are spoken. Board members are also considering increasing the importance of teacher evaluations over testing, though many educators and parents fear such a policy would actually maintain a form of social promotion.

As one board member admitted to the Times: "The implementation [of the standards] so far is pretty close to a disaster. If you talk to the principals at the schools, they pretty much don't know what curriculum they're supposed to be using. The system is not organized to spend even the money they've allocated for this properly."

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