The Department of Education said Wednesday it would have all the Regents exams scored, uploaded and available to schools by Monday, as originally scheduled, despite delays caused by a new electronic scanning system that faced some serious glitches this week.
The delays so far have put the scoring of three out of five Regents tests behind by one or two days, according to D.O.E. spokeswoman Erin Hughes. The tests affected are Living Environment, U.S. History and Global History.
“Implementing a new technology system at large scale is always complex," Hughes said in an email statement. "We apologize for the scoring delay, particularly for those seniors who are waiting for exam scores. We thank participating teachers for their flexibility and feedback as we scale up our system to implement June distributed scoring for the first time citywide.”
In an effort to reduce the chances of cheating, the city changed its policy this year so that teachers cannot score the exams of any students at their schools - even kids who are not in their classes. Instead, the essay portions of the tests were taken to a McGraw Hill office in Connecticut where they were supposed to be scanned and transmitted to teachers working at scoring sites around the city.
Gotham Schools first reported the grading problems on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, teachers who were sent to various locations to score Regents exams have found themselves with little to do.
"Today, we graded thematic essays until around 10:00. Then we sat for two hours with nothing to do, as one or two exams intermittently showed up in the system," said Lawrence Collin, a social studies teacher at Henry Street High School for International Studies. "And our seniors still do not know if they will graduate because exams haven't been graded yet, and nobody knows when they will be finished."
In Monday's Principal's Weekly, principals were told to notify affected seniors and their parents to ensure they understood participation in the graduation ceremony does not mean that all requirements have been met.
Brian Belardi, director of media relations at McGraw-Hill Education, said the company regrets the delays in the scoring of the Regents exams.
"Our investigation into the matter revealed that the delays were caused by intermittent slowdowns in the process that transforms digital images from scanned exam booklets and readies them for scoring by teachers," he said in an email. "We have been working around the clock in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education to streamline this process, which will increase the rate at which scanned exam booklets are transmitted to teachers for online scoring."
The issue led several teachers to bemoan the city's reliance on outside contractors.
"I'm there. I'm ready to work and nothing is coming through. It's just a boondoggle," said Sean McManamon, a history teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School.
"The whole thing was that they didn't trust the scorers, that there was inflation or scrubbing," he said. "Now they come along with this program that's very expensive and it just not very efficient.
"This is a huge waste of public tax dollars," said Greg Lundahl, a social studies teacher at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan. "And then meanwhile the mayor is saying he doesn't have the money to pay us a cost of living raise."
In a separate but related issue, the principal of Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School said he learned Wednesday that a box of 85 English Regents exams was lost. Brian Rosenbloom said he double checked the school’s security camera footage to make sure the exams had been picked up after the test was given last week.
"This is utterly insane. It’s grossly unfair to teachers, students and parents. I can’t give out report cards. How can I give out report cards without Regents scores?” he said.
D.O.E. spokeswoman Hughes said city officials are searching for the school's missing box which contains students’ essay answers.
"Often times when a box is missing we search for it and find it which we are currently working to do. We have the student’s multiple choice answer sheets and they are being scored," she said.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Tech teacher McManamon counted himself as one of the lucky ones. Because the scoring site was at his school he could run up to his classroom and get some work done as he waited for more scanned tests to become available.