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June 21, 2013
UFT protests Regents grading issues; UFT downplays concerns
UFT President Mulgrew and Council of Supervisors and Administrators, a principals union, outside Stuyvesant High School this morning. A top Department of Education official said Friday that effects from delays caused by city's new electronic grading system were "overblown" and estimated that only a small percentage of students would participate in graduation ceremonies without knowing their final grades. "Every kid will have their diploma before the end of [the school year], no one's being kept from walking," Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said at International High School at Lafayette in Brooklyn, shortly before taking stage to speak at the school's graduation ceremony. "I know that it's stressful and I feel bad for the kids that it's stressful," he said, then added, "I do feel like it's a little bit overblown." Polakow-Suransky's comments came following days of complaints from teachers about the grading process of four of the most-taken Regents tests — Living Environment, Global Studies, U.S. History, and English. The exams are being scored electronically this year through a "distributed scoring system" to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the process used in previous years, which involved teachers grading their own students' exams.
June 20, 2013
City had concerns about McGraw-Hill, but lowball offer won out
There was apparently a better choice than CTB McGraw-Hill to oversee the new electronic grading system that this week faltered in spectacular fashion: Pearson. But Pearson's services could have cost the city nearly three times as much as McGraw-Hill's, a bargain that the Department of Education concluded was worth the risk, according to details about the contract submitted to the Panel for Educational Policy for approval last year. "The near-term advantages achieved from Pearson's proposal did not warrant its significantly higher cost," the contract document says. A litte more than a year after the city inked the contract — a three-year, $9.7 million deal — the ambitious scoring system developed by McGraw-Hill is under fire for a series of sweeping technical glitches that has left tens of thousands of students wondering how they did on their end-of-year state exams. Many of those students are seniors whose graduation is contingent on passing the exams even as ceremonies began this week. "I've been doing grading for 18 years and this is the absolute worst," said Dino Sferrazza, a social studies teacher at Benjamin Cardozo High School.
June 20, 2013
With Regents delays stretching on, city recruits overtime scorers
A teacher took these pictures of a computer screen at a Regents exam scoring site today. One message shows that all of the items that had been scanned had already been scored. The other shows that many answers remain to be graded. The Department of Education originally said scoring would be complete today, but the timeline has been extended. The Department of Education is desperately recruiting teachers to make up for Regents exam scoring time that CTB/McGraw-Hill lost. The department needs thousands of graders to work through tens of thousands of test questions that were supposed to be scored already. The scoring hit snags because of breakdowns in the electronic process that the testing company set up, leaving students without scores as high school graduations begin. "As you know, there have been problems in processing and scanning exam materials for the June Global and US History exams which have resulted in delays grading these exams," reads an email that history teachers received late Wednesday. Later, it notes, "Participation is voluntary, and we encourage you to consider taking part in this activity and help to complete the scoring of these exams in as timely a manner as possible." Several teachers said they and their colleagues were torn about whether to take the overtime offer, which would net them just under $42 an hour on Friday night and over the weekend.
June 18, 2013
Serious glitches with electronic grading delay Regents scores
A slew of glitches in the city’s electronic grading for Regents exams have delayed scores for several subjects, just days before high schools are set to begin holding graduation ceremonies. The problems represent at best a significant inconvenience and cost and at worst a threat to students' scores and graduation status, according to educators with knowledge of the grading process. This is the first June that all Regents exams taken at city high schools are being graded through "distributed scoring," an arrangement devised to prevent teachers from scoring tests taken by students at their schools. Until last year, teachers graded their own students' exams, but under pressure to show that test scores are not inflated, the state barred that practice. The city's scoring system extends the state's rules. After a pilot last year, the Department of Education opted to have four of the most-taken tests — Living Environment, Global Studies, U.S. History, and English — scored electronically. McGraw-Hill, the vendor administering the process, collects the exams at schools, transports them to a scanning site in Connecticut, and then distributes answers one by one to teachers stationed at computers in city grading centers. The company is getting $3.5 million this year from the city to administer the distributed scoring program, part of a $9.6 million, three-year contract to manage the logistical acrobatics that the new arrangement requires.
June 18, 2013
The UFT warns members about Regents exam scoring snafus
The union is blaming the city Department of Education and planning to complain to the state about widespread Regents exam scoring problems, according to this message that just went out to UFT members: Dear colleagues, The city Department of Education has bungled the Regents distributive scoring process this month. In response to the state Education Department’s requirement that teachers not score their own students’ exams, the city DOE created a convoluted system that is extremely inefficient.
June 17, 2013
HS graduation rate fell in 2012, for the first time under Bloomberg
New York City's four-year graduation rate fell slightly last year, from 60.9 percent to 60.4 percent, State Education Commissioner John King announced this morning in Albany. King's announcement, to the Board of Regents during its monthly meeting, set the stage for a press conference that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott have called for this afternoon. The annual graduation rate announcement is typically a festive occasion for the mayor, who has staked his education legacy in large part on increased numbers of students finishing high school each year. But last year, when the city's graduation rate flattened (showing a 0.1 point decline) after several years of steady growth, Bloomberg acknowledged that tougher graduation requirements could put pressure on the city's graduation rate. Students who entered high school in 2008 were the first required to earn a Regents diploma by passing five Regents exams with a 65 or higher. The less rigorous local diploma option, which for years helped prop up the city’s overall graduation numbers, disappeared, a change that critics said would leave thousands of students at risk of dropping out.
January 9, 2013
Efforts to curb Regents exam score inflation hit a road bump
The Regents exam that high school students are most likely to fail will not be scored under a new system designed to curb score inflation. In recent years, exams across the city received a disproportionate number of 65s, suggesting that teachers might be bumping up the scores of students on the verge of passing, sometimes illicitly. Aiming to reduce incentives to pad scores, the Department of Education last year began rolling out a system in which teachers are not permitted to grade exams taken by students in their school. A year ago, 27 schools participated in "distributed scoring," and 163 schools used the model in June. Overall, the proportion of exams scoring exactly 65, the score needed to pass, fell by half. This month, all exams for all schools were supposed to be scored under the model. But when the department put out a call for teachers to grade the global history exam, only about 1,000 signed up, officials said. That meant the department was short at least 700 teachers to ensure that all global history exams could be graded on time. The shortfall means the department's shift to distributed scoring will be incomplete when students take exams later this month.
October 25, 2012
City: Rate of just-passing Regents scores has dropped by half
Percentage of Regents exams scoring exactly 65, from 2010 to 2012. A series of changes to the way Regents exams are graded has dramatically slimmed down the number of scores that are exactly passing, according to the Department of Education. In 2010, 7 percent of exams citywide received the lowest passing score, a 65. This year, that proportion was just 3.5 percent, officials said. The number of 65s awarded on the five exams required for graduation rose sharply between 2006 and 2009. The recent decline came as the city implemented several new rules prompted by the bulge in the number of 65s, which suggested that teachers might be bumping up the scores of students on the verge of passing, sometimes illicitly. Department officials said the reduction in the number of 65s showed that the policy changes had successfully curbed incentives to pad students' scores. "Even if the higher percentage of 65s wasn’t due to intentional cheating but well-meaning people making sure kids have the best chance to graduate, what we see … is that there isn’t that incentive to push a score to 65," said Deputy Chief Academic Officer Adina Lopatin. The department released the data in response to a new report by the Independent Budget Office that looks at Regents passing patterns for students who entered high school in 2005. Confirming conventional wisdom and a slew of recent studies, the report found that the more Regents exams a student had passed early in high school, the more likely he was to graduate on time.
July 11, 2012
Teachers give new Regents exam scoring system mixed reviews
The brand-new library at Evander Childs opened so teachers from other schools could grade Regents exams there. Last year, the Evander Childs Campus got a new library, replete with rows of new computers and a mural depicting scholarly pursuits. The library opened its doors for the first time last month — but not to students. Instead, it housed teachers from other high school campuses, who convened there to try out a new model for grading students' final exams. Regents exams, which students must pass to graduate from high school, have been scored by the teachers who administered them since the Regents exam program began in the nineteenth century. But mounting concerns about cheating — spurred on by the finding that students hit the minimum passing score at a disproportionately high rate — have prompted the city and state to make changes to how the exams are graded. The state’s test security overhaul calls for schools to stop grading their own Regents exams by June 2013. The changes are meant to reduce opportunities and incentives for teachers to inflate their students’ scores, which under state law could factor into teachers’ evaluations in the future. The shift would bring Regents exam grading in line with how most states score high-stakes exams and with New York State's requirements about elementary and middle schools' exams. Buoyed by its own concerns about cheating and softer forms of score inflation, the city has sped that timeline up. In January, a handful of schools tested out a system to ensure that teachers do not grade their own students’ exams. Department of Education officials expanded that system, known as "distributed scoring," to more than 160 schools this spring. Most of the schools deployed teachers to centralized locations such as Evander Childs, and teachers from 17 schools tested a system for grading exams online. In total, about 107,000 exams were graded under distributed scoring last month. Teachers who participated in the pilot gave it mixed reviews. Some said the system made them better graders because they considered only the answers, not the students, when assigning scores. But others said the system of musical graders was complicated, time-consuming, and likely to lead to unfairly deflated scores. And a small number of missing tests highlight the potential cost of logistical mishaps.
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