A new promotion and retention policy that raises expectations in the Tucson Unified School District may also result in more students being held back a grade.

The policy, which was approved 3-2 by the TUSD Governing Board late Tuesday, will go into effect in the fall.

It is expected that the new policy will provide clear standards across schools as well as providing strategies to help students avoid retention.

The policy requires that students demonstrate growth and that they are at least approaching grade-level standards to be promoted to the next grade. Other factors that will be considered include attendance, test scores and teacher recommendations.

Unlike the existing policy, which lacks specific benchmarks students must achieve for promotion, the updated version identifies specific subjects that students must receive a passing grade in. Those who fall far below the standards would not be considered passing.

For elementary students, those classes are English and math. Third-graders also have to be approaching or reading at grade level, as required by a state law that goes into effect next school year.

In middle school, students must pass English, math, science or social studies and one other course.

Requirements for high schoolers are unchanged as they advance based on credits earned.

There is a provision in the new policy for students with disabilities, allowing those with individual education plans to be assessed on progress of goals and objectives.

Because the policy is more stringent, school staff is tasked with identifying at-risk students within the first 4 1/2 weeks of school rather than waiting to initiate the retention process after the first quarter.

Parents will be notified immediately and students will be given additional opportunities and interventions such as tutoring, after-school programs and summer-school programs.

The policy was supported by TUSD Governing Board members Michael Hicks, Mark Stegeman and President Adelita Grijalva. Members Cam Juarez and Kristel Ann Foster opposed the measure.

Foster said she would not support the measure without knowing specifically how many students would have been retained this school year under the new policy. That data could not be provided by Tuesday's board meeting, TUSD's staff said.

Members of the administrative staff said the policy is as much about promotion and retention as it is about intervention services.

Both Hicks and Stegeman praised the updated policy, calling it an improvement, but said it could still be stronger.

"I would like to see a stronger policy but it's better than what we've got," Stegeman said.

On StarNet: Find more education and TUSD news and resources at azstarnet.com/education

Did you know?

On average, TUSD retains 232 kindergarten through eighth-graders each year - less than 1 percent of the district's average 32,000 student K-8 population.


In other business Tuesday, the TUSD Governing Board approved class-size standards, which require that a minimum number of students enroll in a course to be able to offer it.

For courses being offered for the first or second time, an initial enrollment of 15 is required. At least 20 students are required for classes that have been offered two years or more. Some exceptions may be made.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea