Saturday, March 15, 2008

Parents storm Dept. of Education offices in rage over 8th-grade policy


Friday, March 14th 2008

Parents and activists furious over a tougher eighth-grade promotion policy stormed Department of Education headquarters Thursday, demanding a meeting with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein before Monday's vote on the plan.

About 50 members of the Coalition for Educational Justice rushed the front door of education headquarters and chanted "Let us in!" and "We want Klein!"

The protestors wanted Klein to postpone the vote on the proposal, which holds back eighth-graders for failing one of four courses or flunking standardized math or reading tests.

For weeks, the group has demanded that the Panel for Educational Policy reject the proposal unless officials first adopt a plan to improve middle grades.

Thursday, they marched up the steps of Tweed Courthouse and demanded to speak with Klein.

"He's the decision-maker, but when it comes to meeting with the chancellor directly, he won't meet with us," said Lenore Brown of Brooklyn, who has eight grandchildren in public schools.

Security guards kept the crowd at bay while leaders negotiated with Ed Department officials. Four protesters were allowed inside to discuss their concerns but left when they were told Klein wasn't available.

Education officials say they are developing a "middle grade success plan" for the coming school year, and staff members have held regular meetings with the opponents of the policy.

"We have met many times with CEJ and will continue to," said the chancellor's press secretary, David Cantor.

Mayor Bloomberg has said the proposed policy is a way to ensure students are better prepared for the rigors of high school and continues his fight against social promotion.

Only 1,300 out of 77,000 eighth-graders were held back last year, but nearly 18,000 would be in danger of failing under the new proposal.

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