Education Letter to the Editor

Retention, Overcrowding, and ‘Working the System’

October 12, 2004 1 min read

To the Editor:

I was concerned, in reading your article “N.Y.C. to Retain Low-Scoring 5th Graders” (Sept. 22, 2004), about where Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein plans to put some 2,000-plus 5th graders who are retained, when most elementary schools in New York City are already at capacity. If extra money promised from the city is for intensive aid in summer school to help a thousand pupils gain promotion, where is the money coming from for those to be retained? A school that is at capacity at 1,200 and has to retain 50 5th graders would seem to have roughly two extra classes to accommodate. But where?

Retaining 3rd graders does not create the immediate overcrowding that retaining 5th graders will. The latter will isolate retainees from their peers who move to a middle school. Mr. Klein had better be prepared to duck.

Pete Kreis

Retired Educator

Tallahassee, Fla.

To the Editor:

My first professional teaching job was working with high-school-age incarcerated gangbangers. These boys and girls had many problems, from bad home environments to economic disadvantages, and often were at the bottom of the list for their grades in school. They were not stupid. As a teacher once explained to some of them: “Let’s see, you can take a stolen ink pen and a battery and create a tattoo gun. But you can’t remember the difference between AC and DC.”

These students were passed from grade to grade in school because they could be—and often because it was required that they be. They learned to work the system and go around the rules.

I support the end of social promotion because I see what it has done to our schools. It isn’t a pretty sight. Promotion for nothing doesn’t serve anyone.

Joy Walden

Monument Valley, Ariz.