The Bloomberg and Thompson campaigns spent the afternoon jealously guarding their claims to having ended social promotion, though whether either candidate has ended the practice is debatable.
Bloomberg campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson led the attack this afternoon, saying that as president of the Board of Education Bill Thompson, currently the city’s comptroller, failed to end social promotion. Broadly defined, social promotions means that students are bumped from one grade to the next irrespective of academic problems.
Thompson’s campaign shot back, defending the mayoral hopeful. “Bill Thompson was at the forefront of ending social promotion long before Mike Bloomberg decided to claim this initiative as his own,” read an email from the campaign.
In 1999, when Thompson was president of the Board of Education, he did vote for a measure that forced students in grades 3-8 who had low test scores, poor grades, and abysmal attendance to take summer school or repeat a grade.
Yet, by most accounts the rule was loosely enforced. The Daily News reported at the time that of the 63 percent of students who were promoted following summer school, only 42 percent passed the math and English language arts tests.
“As President of the Board of Education, Thompson had his chance to end social promotion, but he failed to do so and the old school system continued to advance failing students,” Wolfson wrote in a statement.
Thompson’s campaign responded, noting that despite the mayor’s claims to having raised test scores and held students to higher standards, graduates of the city’s public schools are often still unprepared for college level work.