snowed out (updated)

Snow day disrupts Regents exams; city in talks with state

A big question mark hanging over today’s snow closure is what will happen to the high school students who were supposed to take Regents exams this morning.

Students are required to take the exams to graduate, and today’s test date was particularly important for some students hoping to graduate this month. City officials said today that schools ordered nearly 100,000 exams in six subjects, though frequently the number of tests ordered is larger than the number of students who sit for them.

No one seems to know yet exactly when those students will get a chance to take their exams. A GothamSchools reader told us that she spent 45 minutes waiting on 311, the city’s information hotline, this morning, before being told only that today’s administration had been canceled.

“We are in discussion with state education officials about finding a solution for students who were unable to take the Regents exams scheduled for today,” Mayor Bloomberg said during a press conference to discuss the surprise storm. “This is not a problem only for New York City. There are other cities in the southern part of the state that have exactly the same problem.”

A Department of Education spokesman said the city hoped to finalize arrangements with the state today. State policy is typically not to administer make-up Regents exams.

The last time Regents exams were canceled in New York due to snow was in 2009, and the state allowed students either to retake the entire exam or take only the missed second half of the exam in June. In 2004, city seniors who missed Regents exams because of a snow day were allowed to skip the exams altogether, provided that they were seeking only a local diploma and had passed classes in the subjects being tested.

UPDATE: A city spokesman just clarified that the 2009 Regents cancellation did not affect New York City students.

High school math teacher Akil Wilson watched Bloomberg’s press conference this morning and helpfully transcribed an exchange between reporters, the mayor and Chancellor Cathie Black about the exams:

1st Reporter: And so, all of these thousands of people will have to take the exams in June and will have to study for them again?

Black: That’s correct.

Bloomberg: Well, hopefully if you learned the material, you don’t have to study again? I mean, think about what you’re – they should be learning the material. That’s the whole idea of the test, to see whether you know the material, not whether you can pass the test.

2nd Reporter: The idea is that you can take it three times and pass it with at least a 65, so like, if you are not given that time in January to take it, you fail it in June…

Bloomberg: You know — unfortunately, we have a snow storm which we didn’t want, but God gave us. And the state will figure out ways to work it out, for the kids who need to take the test, but learning the material is not a bad idea. As a matter of fact, they’ve got the day free, they can go back to the books, and I’m sure most of them will want to spend this day doing that.

Here’s the list of Regents exam subject that were supposed to have been offered today, and the number of tests ordered in each:


Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news