technical difficulties

Regents scoring issues continue to pile up as graduations near

Sweeping and serious problems with a new system for grading high school Regents exams persisted today, the date by which one set of tests was supposed to be completely graded.

The new system, designed to curb score inflation, requires teachers to report to central sites to grade answers that have been scanned and meted out by McGraw-Hill, the testing company. Educators from across the city are reporting that teachers were sent back to their schools early again today from grading sites because there were not enough essays to score. At other sites, scorers said they were told to stay put but not given papers to grade.

“We arrived at scoring today at 8:30 only to be sent away at 9,” wrote a commenter posting as AlvySinger in response to our story about the grading issues from Tuesday.

“1:08 pm. Nothing to grade,” another commenter wrote. The story has received nearly 50 comments from educators and others who are distressed about the scoring situation.

Several readers noted that a solution exists to a different issue that left some essays unreadable in the computer system — but that the fix requires compromising the anonymity of the exams, a main reason for the new scoring system in the first place.

“By simply hitting ‘zoom out’ on the computer settings, the student’s name, school and ID number (if they wrote it) is revealed — worked on EVERY test, EVERY time,” Queens wrote. “However, it allowed for the ‘blocked out’ parts from bad scans to be seen as well.”

The scoring delays are important because some seniors need to earn passing scores in order to graduate. The Department of Education told principals late Tuesday that they should bend the rules and allow seniors who have fulfilled all other requirements to participate in graduation ceremonies, with the caveat that they must be told that they won’t get a diploma until they have a passing exam score.

A teacher who is coordinating his school’s graduation ceremony, which takes place on Monday, said he’s been fielding calls from students who need to pass their Regents in order to graduate. They’ve called to ask if they can pick up their cap and gown or reserve seats for their parents, which they couldn’t do under the regular rules.

“If you’re a senior on the fence, waiting to see if you’re going to graduate, you’re pretty nervous” the teacher said. He estimated that 20 students, or about 10 percent, of students at his school are affected. “There’s not much I can tell them,” the teacher said. “We’re forced to tell them that it hasn’t been graded.”

The teacher called the situation at his testing center “a nightmare, to put it bluntly.” He said mornings have been busy — he’s graded about 40 essays per day — but that scanned tests slow to a trickle in the afternoon. He said he graded three essays yesterday between 12:30 and 3 p.m. Normally, he said he would be able to grade about 20 essays per hour.

Other problems with the electronic scoring system — being used for four frequently taken tests, in Living Environment, Global Studies, U.S. history, and English — have teachers concerned that students’ scores could be negatively affected.

Those issues could be compounded as the department searches for educators to score exams after school and over the weekend. (McGraw-Hill will cover the overtime pay from its $3.5 million contract for the year, city officials said on Tuesday. Its total contract is for $9.6 million over three years.)

“I was just informed that I have been scheduled to grade the Geometry Regents over the next few days. I have taught High School ENGLISH for 14 years–why do I need to spend two days at another location grading a test I have no business being involved with?” wrote Kelli, a GothamSchools commenter.

“Exactly,” wrote Science Teacher, in response. “I was sent to grade Living Environment and I have never taught LE. Granted I am a science teacher and I understood the material, [but] there were other teachers way out of their own subject who were not well versed in the subject.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.