More than half of school's 8th graders fail

LOCKPORT, Ill. Graduation was Sunday, June 1, for Fairmont Elementary School. But only 15 students were qualified to walk across the stage. The news was upsetting to the students who didn't graduate and their parents. Administrators say it was for their own good and there is an opportunity to catch up.

Summer school for some kids at Fairmont Elementary in Lockport isn't all funs and games. Twenty eighth graders weren't able to graduate due to low academic standards.

Eva Dotson's son was supposed to graduate. Now he's in summer school with the other students who didn't graduate. Dotson says she didn't have notice until two weeks before graduation.

"It was a disappointment to me and to him, and to find out as many students was not graduating -- it was more students not graduating than graduated," said Dotson.

"It made me mad a little bit, because I know I should have graduated, and my granny took all her time helping me with this project, and I didn't even get to walk across the stage," said John Humphrey, eighth grader.

School administrators and board members say parents were given warning throughout the semester of poor performance and that some students were not achieving the standard of a new promotions policy that stresses academics.

"Each quarter we have identified students who were struggling. We sent parent letters home. We provided interventions," said Dr. Doris Williams Langon, Fairmont School District #89 superintendent.

The new policy was approved in 2006 after administrators saw Fairmont graduates going on to Lockport High School and dropping out.

"When you're sitting in a classroom with kids that really achieve, and you're sitting there and don't know your timetables, you get frustrated. Not only that, you would be embarrassed," said Charles Travis, Fairmont School District #89 board member.

"We understand the significance of an elementary education, to have a strong academic foundation so that they are able to compete and excel," said Langon.

For now, John Humphrey will have a summer of serious math study is ahead. If he and the other eighth graders held back improve their academics, they will be able to go on to high school with the rest of their class.

Last year's eighth graders at Fairmont were the first to be tested by the new promotion policy. All graduated.

Administrators are looking at ways to offer more support to students falling behind, like more high school tutors and gender-based classes.

Fairmont's students are 98 percent at or below the poverty level. Administrators say their students face more challenges but contend their students can achieve high standards with more help.

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