Middle school pupils in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda district will have to do better to make it to the next grade.
And school officials are cautioning that the new standards will be toughened again next year.
By a 3-1 vote Friday, School Board members changed policies at the district's three middle schools -- Kenmore, Franklin and Hoover -- to require pupils to pass four of five "core" courses they take each year.
"This is a major move upward toward a new standard," said Superintendent David A. Paciencia. "Kids will normally do what you expect of them, as long as you tell them the rules along the way."
Before the change, pupils had to pass three of five core courses with a grade of 65 or better in order to advance. The three-of-five standard came about when the School Board voted to include a fifth core course for middle school pupils without adopting a similar change in passing requirements, school officials said.
"(The change) isn't perfect, but it's better than what currently exists," said board president Susan M. Rizzo.
Last year, school officials said, 350 of the district's more than 2,000 middle school pupils failed one or more courses.
Paciencia said that figure is "pretty typical" and probably won't vary much in either direction with the new standard -- at least not right away.
Besides the core requirements, the new standard adopted by the School Board requires middle school pupils to pass at least 5.75 of the seven units they take each year. The total can be derived from core courses such as math, English, and science -- which count as one full unit each -- or from a mix of supplemental courses, like art, music and physical education, which count as quarter or half units.
While most School Board members voted to approve the new standard, several members of the board said the requirements do not go far enough.
Board member Alan MacGamwell reluctantly supported the measure, saying he wanted to see a much tougher standard in place before next fall.
"This is a compromise," MacGamwell told middle school administrators. "You have to understand the pressure we're going to put on you to have this (new standard) in place. There's pressure to get moving."
Board member Daniel J. Wiles voted against the measure because he did not feel it was strong enough.
"I can't support this in good conscience," Wiles said. "I truly feel we have to tell kids, 'You have to learn.' People go to work and they have to do their jobs -- kids go to school and they have to learn."
Wiles stressed that he will be looking to include funding for summer school programs for the district's middle school pupils in the next district budget, which officials will begin designing in January. Summer school programs for the district's middle schools were cut about five years ago but need to be put back in the budget, he said.