Public schools in the Anacostia section of Washington plan to require minimum test scores next spring before students can be promoted or graduate. Officials dropped the test requirement for this year because of the city's long teachers' strike. A story in the Post April 23 indicated incorrectly that the test requirement had been permanently canceled.
Because of last month's school strike, public schools in the Anacostia section of Washington have decided not to carry out plans announced last fall to require students to achieve minimum scores on standard tests before they could be promoted or graduated in June.
Reuben Pierce, the assistant D.C. school superintendent in charge of the 31 Anacostia schools, said principals and a local community board had decided not to enforce the standards for promotion from grade to grade because of the effects of the teachers' strike.
Pierce said the standards for seniors graduating from high school had been cancelled earlier. He said he was concerned that it would be considered bad faith to add the testing requirement after students had been told in September they had only to pass certain cources in order to graduate.
Pierce said he expects the standards to be applied next year in the schools in his area, provided uniform promotion standards are adopted throughout the city.
The Anacostia area, which includes some of the poorest parts of Washington, has about 26,500 students in its public schools. It is one of six decentralized regions into which the D.C. school system is divided.
"It's just something we couldn't control," Pierce said. "The community here is receptive and they were willing to have these standards applied, but the strike hurt us and we couldn't go ahead."
Because of the strike, pierce said, the central school administration postponed from late April to late May the city-wide reading and math tests on which Anacostia schools planned to base their minimum standards for promotion. As a result he said, scores from the tests will not be reported until after the school term ends June 14, making it impossible to use them this spring for deciding whether students are promoted.
The aborted plan for promotion tests in Anacostia is part of a nationwide movement for competency testing as a way to end the widespread practice of promoting and graduating students largely because of their age. If Anacostia had stuck to its standards, its schools would have been the first in the Washington area to use uniform tests for promotion and graduation instead of relying only on teacher judgment and grades.
Under the Anacostia plan students would have had to pass their courses and the tests as well.
In July 1977, the District of Columbia School Board voted unanimously to impose minimum achievement standards, enforced by tests, for both high school graduation and promotion from grade to grade.
Establishing such standards was described as a crucial part of the competency-bases curriculum, which is the centrepiece of Supt. Vincent Reed's efforts to raise the low average level of achievement in Washington schools.
So far Reed has made no recommendations about what the standards should be or when they would be enforced.
"We wanted to look at Anacostia as an experiment to see if it worked out," Reed said. "Now we're going to look at the possibility of doing it city-wide."
In late 1977, associate superintendent James T. Guines, who has been in charge of drawing up the new competency curriculum, proposed a list of minimum skills for high school graduation.
Last spring Guines suggested phasing in definite promotion standards, tied to tests, with the standards being applied for third grade this June, for sixth grade next year, for ninth grade in 1981, and for 12th grade graduates in 1985.
"Without some standards," Guines said recently "all we have is a pile of new books and a bunch of new tests. I have trouble understanding why we can't take the next step."
Last fall several school board members expressed impatience at Reed's slow pace in establishing city-wide promotion standards. Since then the issue has received little attention as the board has been preoccupied with its dispute with the teachers' union and its own internal feuding.
The subject of promotion standards has been raised again during the current campaign for an at-large seat on the board, which will be filled by special election May 1.