City ‘Fixes’ Grades for Failing High School Students

Susan Edelman, New York Post, June 28, 2015

How do you fix a failing high school? Change the grades.

Under pressure to boost student achievement, the state-designated “out of time” Automotive HS in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has resorted to rigging Regents exam scores.

The failing scores of five students who took the Regents in January were switched to passing scores of 65 or higher on their transcripts, the city Department of Education has confirmed.

One junior saw his scores upped to pass two exams required for graduation–Living Environment (biology) and algebra–even though he had failed both classes. The student insisted he deserved a break on the exams because “I studied my ass off.”

In 2011, the state banned “scrubbing”–the practice of re-scoring tests that fall just short of passing. In 2013, the DOE tried to fire a teacher who raised the scores of five students on a Regents physics exam. In 2014, city scores plummeted after a new rule barred teachers from grading tests given at their own schools.

Now, the city has sanctioned it.

“This is Scrubbing Part 2,” a veteran educator said of the Automotive HS score changes. “The teachers used to do it. Now it’s the administrators.”

Automotive HS is one of the city’s 94 low-performing “Renewal” schools–which Mayor de Blasio showered with $31 million this school year and has vowed to revamp with $163 million next school year. The state Education Department has branded Automotive and seven other city schools “out of time,” meaning the schools require significant revamping or a shutdown.

While declaring Regents scores “final,” state officials last week said exams may be re-scored “if the superintendent of schools has compelling reason to believe that an essay was not scored in accordance with the rating guide or according to the required procedures.”

The DOE said Aimee Horowitz, superintendent of the Renewal schools, “reviewed and approved” appeals for nine Automotive students to have their January 2015 Regents exams re-scored. The reasons were not explained.

As a result, five students got higher scores, one stayed the same and three decreased, officials said.

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