Chicago Public Schools Shifts Grade Promotion Policies

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has unveiled a new elementary school promotion policy for students entering key grades of 3, 6 and 8. This policy change is being proposed in order to better align with more rigorous state assessments, as well as to create a more well-rounded picture of student progress and needs by considering both grades and performance for student promotion. However, how the new policy could affect summer-school enrollment remains up in the air.

According to a press release by CPS, the current promotion policy must be updated as it is no longer consistent with state requirements. CPS is adopting the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) as a replacement of its current promotion policy to work in conjunction with student grades.

“This new policy will better prepare and support students during elementary school to get them on a path for success in college, career and life,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “As the District adopts more rigorous assessment standards, we must provide teachers with better tools to measure academic progress and identify where intervention is necessary to provide students with the individual supports they need to reach their full potential.”

The revised policy will go before the board for approval at its monthly meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, October 23rd.

The new policy came as a result of alarming data showing students struggling in third, sixth and eighth grades. In the last school year, more than 4,600 CPS students scored below the 24th percentile on a portion of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test and were required to attend summer school before moving to the next grade level.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Annette Gurley, CPS’ chief of teaching and learning, said the district is taking a more supportive approach for children who struggle in the key grades. Since the state has changed its standardized test for elementary school students to reflect the new Common Core curriculum, Gurley said the district needed to change how it decides when children should be held back a grade or how to help them be promoted.

“Our focus is on support,” she said. “The goal is not to hold students back. The goal is to provide the supports for the students.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, district officials said the new promotion policy is intended to ensure more students get the support they need during this transitional year. The district has proposed dividing the lowest category under the current promotion policy into two groups. Students who score in the 11th to 23rd percentile on the new NWEA test will be required to attend summer school only if they fail to get at least a C in their final grade in math or reading. Students who score below the 10th percentile on the NWEA test would still be required to attend summer school.

The policy does not represent a return to the days when social promotions were common, according to school officials. The new policy will help educators identify failing students and give them support during the school year, they said.

“I am not an advocate of social promotion,” Byrd-Bennett said. “That is at best a level of impracticality and trickery with our students and parents that we would promote students who are not prepared to move to the challenges of the next grade level or the next sequence of their study.”

“We don’t intend to do that at all. As the state shifts the emphasis away from ISAT and we take a look at nationally normed evaluations that are aligned to Common Core, this shift is just necessary,” she continued.