Walcott: Strike absences shouldn't exempt students from exams

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said on Monday that she thinks students who have missed weeks of school due to the city’s school bus strike should not have to take the year’s state math and reading tests.

Today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said they should. Speaking at a briefing for reporters about bids for new contracts the city received from bus companies, he said,

They should sit [for the tests]. This year has been a very dramatic year for our students, both with the hurricane [Sandy] and with this strike, but we’ve also been working very closely with the schools and working with our principals and providing materials for parents to receive at home as well. Again, when we take a look at the overall system, the majority of students have been in school, and I think those students who have not been as a result of the strike should sit as well. And we’ll work closely with the families and the schools to make sure they’re getting the appropriate reinforcement as far as academics.

But should the students’ scores be used to determine whether they can advance to the next grade, or for the other ways that the Department of Education puts them to use? Walcott signaled that he thought all students’ scores should be used in the same ways.

The department could in fact end up tweaking the way it uses scores of students most affected by the year’s unusual disruptions. Responding to Tisch’s concerns on Monday, a department spokeswoman said, “We are aware of these concerns and plan to decide whether any adjustments are necessary after we have reviewed the data.”