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Boro mother challenges decision not to promote daughter

A Fresh Meadows mother is fighting a school superintendent’s decision to make her daughter repeat the fifth-grade after the girl spent months in summer school to boost her test scores and barely missed the cut-off point to pass the exam..

Elise LaForge said she and her daughter, Christina LaForge, who has a learning disability that makes taking tests difficult, were devastated to learn the 11-year-old would have to go through the fifth-grade all over again after she scored 640 out of 800 points on the state standardized test for English — seven points below the mark needed to pass the exam.

Although this was just below the cut-off point, Elise LaForge said her daughter’s former principal at PS 162 said Christina would still be able to move on to the sixth-grade, a decision District Superintendent Anita Saunders ended up ruling against. Christina’s principal and teachers had told LaForge her daughter should be able to move ahead, and Saunders’ office even sent out a letter to LaForge stating Christine would be promoted to the sixth-grade. The city Department of Education called this a “clerical error.”

“She’s not eating well, she’s up every night, she can’t sleep, she’s crying,” LaForge said. “This is not her personality. She’s going to fifth-grade in a new school now, where she doesn’t know anybody. She’s sitting alone at recess. It breaks my heart.”

After Saunders decided Christina would have to repeat the grade, her family was officially notified of the decision just one day before school was to begin on Sept. 7, LaForge said. LaForge had been in contact with school officials prior to that notification and had known in August that Christina was going to have to repeat the grade, giving her time to find a spot for her at PS 46 in Bayside. She did not want her daughter to repeat the grade at PS 162 because it was upsetting for Christina to remain in the school.

“True, she didn’t meet the standings for this test, but it’s seven points,” LaForge said. “Does she have weaknesses? Yes, but she had the recommendations of her teachers and principal to move forward.”

A city Department of Education spokesman wrote in an e-mail that superintendents have the final decision on promotions and “often there’s a disagreement between the principal and superintendent.”

“In this case a clerical error occurred´╗┐, as a decision was mailed before the superintendent had a chance to review the student’s portfolio,” the spokesman wrote.

The DOE spokesman said the superintendent met with the LaForges for “almost an hour” to explain why the student was not ready for the sixth-grade, which he said was because of her low standardized test scores.

LaForge said while her daughter did have low scores, that should not be the only way in which to measure Christina’s academic ability since she had the support of her teachers and principal to move on to the next grade.

Additionally, LaForge said she was not informed by school officials that her daughter was eligible last year to be placed in a special class that would have given her more individualized attention because of her learning disability and helped her pass the standardized test.

The city DOE did not return a request for comment about this.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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