Make it clear to students

Gary Moskowitz

BURBANK -- The state's decision to end social promotion in 1999 has

left the Burbank Unified School District with increased rates of

retention, school officials said this week.

Andrea Canady, director of elementary education for the district, said

retentions -- students held back for failing classes -- in Burbank's 12

elementary schools have risen since the district began moving away from

social promotion in 1999.

Canady said retention numbers rose from 36 to 130 in 2000.

"Retention has gone up because the retention law changed," Canady

said. "But in a way it's not really retention, because they will move

into upper levels of classes they did pass. They just have to take the

failed class over again."

Social promotion was a practice that allowed students who failed a

class to pass to the next grade in order to keep that student with his or

her peer group. In 1999, state lawmakers ended that practice, and school

districts had to create intervention programs to keep students from being


Alexis Sheehy, director of secondary education, said Burbank Unified

began implementing a promotion retention policy through pilot programs at

select schools in 1999.

Although complete data from the 2000-01 school year has not yet been

compiled, Sheehy did say that 89 students in sixth, seventh and eighth

grades were at risk of being retained at the end of the regular school

year. Sheehy did not have 1999-2000 statistics available, but she did

estimate that numbers have risen.

"We can't enforce summer school," Sheehy said. "But the teacher has

the final say in whether retention is best for any given student."

David Aponik, superintendent of schools, said the issue of remediation

is part of a larger accountability issue for the Burbank school district.

To Aponik, doing away with social promotion was a good thing in that

it encourages the district to be accountable for continuity of content in

Burbank schools.

"We have standards that we have to hold our students to," Aponik said.

"All in all, the legislation was a good idea, but we need to communicate

to parents what it is we want their children to learn."

Aponik added, "If you retain a student and make them do the same thing

over again, it's not going to help. What we need is clear expectations."

Aponik said the district offers after school, summer school and

tutoring programs to help students who are not receiving passing grades.

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