Dear Judy,

My son’s teacher said he might have to go to summer school so he won’t be left back. Does he have to go to summer school? I want to send him to camp.

Annoyed parent.

Dear Annoyed,

Good news: No one is going to force you to send your son to summer school – attendance used to be required, but now is voluntary. However, they can keep him back from the next grade if his school work does not warrant promotion. It is all covered in Chancellor’s Regulation A-501. More good news, summer school sessions run until August 8th at the latest. So he can go to the last three weeks of camp – most camps have flexible schedules with campers signing on for a few weeks rather than a whole summer.

I am not sure which grade you are talking about, but there are criteria for moving up one grade at each level. The first criteria is a level 2 score on the state tests. But even if there is a higher score, the principal can recommend holding him back. In each case, the teacher compiles a portfolio of the year’s work to see if the test score is an accurate assessment of the child’s learning level. If the teacher thinks it is, it goes to the principal who reviews the portfolio and can recommend holding back or promotion. If he recommends holding back, it is usually accompanied by the possibility of promotion if  the student completes summer school and gets at least a level 2 score on August state tests.

There are more stringent requirements at "terminal grades," when the kids go from 5th grade to middle school and 8th grade to high school This is not the end of the process, however. The superintendent must agree with the assessments and can order the child promoted. Finally, the parent can appeal, and that is covered in the regulation as well.

High school summer school used to be available for kids to get some of the credits needed for graduation or take courses that interest them. But now, with budgets tight and principals in charge of running their own summer school programs, it is usually limited to kids who need to make up courses and pass Regents exams to graduate. It is the principal who is in charge of the program at all grade levels as long as they fit within the time frameset up by the DOE.

Good luck for a happy summer -- in school and in camp.