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9 percent of third through eighth graders sent to summer school

Nearly 35,000 elementary and middle school students are being told this week that they should attend summer school based on their low test scores, the city Department of Education announced today.

The figure — 34,069 students between third and eighth grade, to be precise — represents nine percent of all students in those grades. And it is an increase of more than 10,000 from the number of students recommended for summer school last year.

As part of Mayor Bloomberg’s vaunted initiative to end what he calls “social promotion,” students who do not pass annual state English and math exams must either attend summer school or repeat their grade.

The figures released today are the first public indication of what city students’ performance on state tests this year might look like. The results have not yet been released.

City school officials said the increase was not an indication of declining academic performance, but rather the result of how recommendations were made this year and last year. Because the state now reports test results later in the year, school officials have made summer school recommendations by guessing which students will not pass annual English and math tests.

Last year, revamped state tests meant that the city under-estimated the number of students who would not pass the exams. Though roughly 31,000 students should have been sent to summer school, the city only recommended that roughly 23,000 students attend.

That figure was itself double the number of young students sent in 2009.

Bloomberg has often boasted about his promotion policy, saying that previously students passed from grade to grade regardless of whether they mastered material. A RAND study commissioned by the city concluded that the policy had short-term benefits for students affected by it. The study also confirmed, however, that more students have been promoted to the next grade since the policy was introduced than were promoted before.

Many of the students sent to summer school are able to avoid being held back by passing alternative exams in August. Last year, half of the students who attended summer school were promoted to the next grade, school officials said.