More than 63 percent of the elementary students in Washington's public schools met required promotional standards in reading and mathematics this year--the best results since the stiffer standards were imposed two years ago, school officials announced yesterday.
Some 25,504 students passed both the reading and math requirements and another 7,039 met the required standards in one of the two areas. As a result, nearly 81 percent of the students in grades one through six have been promoted to the next grade level, slightly less than the 83 percent who were promoted in June of last year, when the standards were in effect in only grades one through three.
Just under 16 percent or 6,346 of the students failed both reading and math and will be retained at the same grade level if they do not make up enough work in summer school to qualify for promotion next September, said Associate Superintendent James T. Guines.
School Board president David H. Eaton said school officials were pleased with the results, but are still seeking to improve the promotion rate. "I realize things are not perfect. But the program has been in effect for two years and the results so far have been improving. We are moving in the right direction."
Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie was not available for comment yesterday.
The new promotions system, called the "Student Progess Plan," requires students at each grade level to master a certain number of skills in reading and math each semester, before they can be promoted at both the half year point in January and in June.
Last January, 20,620 students (51 percent) had mastered the required work in both reading and mathematics. Another 8,902 (22 percent) were given "transitional" promotions because they had passed one subject or the other. At the same time 11,076 of the youngsters (27 percent) were in danger of being held in their current grade level--double the number who actually failed to meet the standards at the end of the year.
Those who failed to meet the standards at mid-year were required to attend school an extra 1 1/2 hours each day to get special help. Guines said it was because of that extra work that the number who failed to meet either standard was cut in half by year's end.
Guines said that in February, after the mid-year promotion results were announced, McKenzie made it clear to "teachers, principals, regional superintendents, even Jim Guines," that any schools with high failure rates at year's end would be subject to close scrutiny to determine whether the problems were related to the performance of the teachers and administrators responsible for those schools.
No school-by-school promotion figures were available yesterday.
Yesterday's data did not include results for approximately 1,400 students, because for various reasons forms recording those students' performance could not be read by system computers. Officials said that data is being assembled again and will be reported later.
McKenzie is said to be considering eliminating the practice of promoting students twice a year, based on the recommendations of a study the National Institute of Education recently completed at her request. The NIE evaluators concluded that the current promotions plan requires the youngsters to learn too much in too little time without providing them with adequate remedial help.
The study also says the current plan does not adequately address the needs of the gifted student who easily masters the required skills and can learn even more.
McKenzie has not decided whether she will scrap the twice-a-year promotions, Guines said.
Under the current plan, each teacher receives a checklist of skill objectives that the pupils are required to know at the end of each semester.
A fourth-grader, for example, must master 47 reading and 11 math objectives during the first semester with an accuracy of at least 70 percent. The students are expected to know, among other things, how to construct contractions and possessive words, distinguish the plot and main idea of a story, and add a fraction and a whole number, such as 1 1/2 plus 2.
The second semester skills build on those taught in the first semester and are progressively more difficult.