Graduation at city high schools begins this week, but some students who will walk may not get a diploma.
Due to issues with a new system used to grade the statewide tests, there is a delay in grading some of the statewide Regents exams, and the results may not be issued until after seniors don their cap and gowns.
Under the new requirements, students must pass all Regents exams to receive a high school diploma. That means seniors who took the exams this month must pass them in order to graduate. The exams concluded earlier this week, but the city Department of Education warned principals on Tuesday that the grades for some exams will not be available until Monday.
For some schools, like Benjamin Cardozo High School which hold its graduation on Friday, that’s too late. And for other schools, who hold graduation next week, it gives a short turnaround time to notify students that they won’t graduate if they do not pass the exams. That puts principals in a dilemma, as they typically don’t allow students to walk unless they are certain to graduate.
The DOE is advising principals to forgo their typical protocol of not allowing students to walk if final graduation requirements are still pending.
In a letter to principals this week, Niket Mull, the department’s executive director of assessment, told principals to notify seniors who may be affected by the delay.
“We understand the importance of having Regents scores back as soon as possible, especially for graduating seniors, and apologize for this delay,” the letter read. “We are continuing to work closely with the vendor to accelerate scanning and address the situation. At this time, we expect schools to have access to final results by the end of the day Monday, June 24, as scheduled.”
The three Regents that remain delayed according to the letter, are the Living Environment, Global History and US History Regents. The exam grades were expected to be released Wednesday and Thursday. Living Environment results are now scheduled for Friday while the grades from the two history Regents will be released Monday.
That would mean most schools, like Forest Hills, John Adams and August Martin high schools, will have less than 24 hours between the time grades are released and graduation ceremonies are held, while some, like Cardozo, would have already had graduation.
The issue stems from a process called “distributive grading,” in which teachers are not allowed to grade their own students’ exams, a rule recently put in place by state law.
This is the first year distributive grading is being used. The DOE opted to have four of the most-taken tests — Living Environment, Global Studies, U.S. History and English — scored electronically. McGraw-Hill, the vendor, which received a $9.6 million contract to administer the process for three years, collects the exams at schools, transports them to a scanning site in Connecticut, and then distributes answers to teachers stationed at computers in city grading centers.
At the time, the grading process moved quicker, one source said, but this year, once all high schools were included, some schools did not have their exams picked up for days and bandwidth issues are causing grades to be uploaded into the computer system slowly.
A teacher from Brooklyn hired to grade the Global Studies exams said computers at the grading sites crashed and she was able to grade only about two dozen tests.
“Last year, I graded more than 100 in a day,” she said.
Another teacher, who graded English exams, said the process was not too bad, but that other teachers were complaining.
“Sometimes the computers freeze and it takes a while to get them back up,” the teacher said. “It’s not entirely a terrible program, it’s just got a lot of kinks.”
Although the program had a pilot run last year, the DOE did not test the system with all schools citywide.
Arthur Goldstein, the United Federation of Teachers chapter leader at Francis Lewis High School, said more testing needed to be done before the system was utilized.
“Because they don’t test things, they tend not to work,” Goldstein said. “It’s becoming a fiasco.”
Goldstein said the DOE was forced to send home some teachers it brought in to grade the tests because they were unqualified since they taught younger grades. As a result, some people are being paid $41 an hour to grade the tests.
“It just looks like an enormous waste of money,” he said.
Goldstein was not grading exams this year, but knew colleagues who are and had heard about the computer problems.
He disagreed with the state taking away the ability of teachers to grade their own students’ work and said the city should have never opted to grade them electronically. Other school districts in the state have already completed grading.
“They made something that could be very simple very complicated for no good reason,” he said.