Up to 10,000 third-graders could be held back this year because they did not pass citywide reading and math exams, according to test results released by the Department of Education.

Even though the city spent $8 million preparing for the exams, 11,700 of the 80,000 third-graders in New York City public schools failed one or both of the tests, the department said Thursday.

Officials had predicted as many as 15,000 student would be kept in third grade for another year as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (search) new policy to end "social promotion."

"I think it reflects the good work that our parents did, the extra remediation that we did," Chancellor Joel Klein said.

Children who failed can still advance to fourth grade if they successfully appeal their test scores or retake the exams after attending summer school.

In 2003, about 4,800 third-graders were asked to repeat the grade. Teachers were allowed to consider other factors in promotion decisions, including classroom work. This year, factors other than the test results will be considered only during the appeals.

Bloomberg, a billionaire Republican businessman elected in 2001, has staked his re-election in 2005 on resuscitating the moribund school system, which serves 1.1 million pupils.