For decades, New York State Regents exams have been graded within the high school they are administered, where teachers are responsible for grading their students’s exams. However, the DOE has recently instituted a change regarding how the Regents will be graded starting with the June 2013 exams to reduce opportunities and incentives for teachers to raise their students’ scores, schools will not be able to grade Regents from their own students and educators will have to score Regents from students in other schools. Because of a sharp increase in the number of students who barely pass the exam with a 65%, the DOE believes that teachers may have been influenced and enticed by personal motives in order to ensure that their students pass the Regents, an important credential often associated with graduation. Data seem to indicate that many teachers grade with two related biases. One is to inflate scores to guarantee that their own students are able to just barely pass the exams. The other motive they are influenced by is safeguarding their own reputation because if more students pass teachers and schools can shore up their credentials. The DOE established a new grading system in hopes that scores would more accurately reflect a student’s performance and ability not only to pass but also to exceed state requirements; they hoped that the exams would also reflect teachers’ capacity to educate students consistently throughout the five boroughs.
This past January, the state ran an experiment in a handful of schools in Queens to judge whether or not this new system would truly be effective and efficient. Spanning over 160 schools, 107,000 tests were graded under the system. Within the system, tests were transported to schools and were graded by two different people, a new aspect of the new scoring system. Although the DOE thought it was a successful run-through, many teachers gave it mixed reviews. A handful of them believed that it made them better graders because they didn’t take into consideration who the student was or any personal ties they had with the individual whose test they were assessing. They thought that this system would work to solve the problem at hand because there was no necessity to add points to a test to guarantee that it was a passing score/grade. However, others had strong, opposing feelings towards the experiment. They said the new system was difficult, time-consuming and still had to be validated with more trials due to the 50/50 response that it received. Many believed it encouraged teachers to grade more harshly because if not their character came into question.
The new system of grading posed a variety of challenges to both teachers and educators alike. Because each highschool’s curriculum varies in terms of what is taught to students, the courses are not standardized; some schools teach topics not taught in other schools. Therefore, on the essay portion of the Regents, teachers would not be able to grade properly if they were unaware of the specific concepts being taught in other schools. Another issue is that if the system were to be instituted, then teachers could also be penalized if they believed their grading wasn’t appropriate and did not meet the set standards. Time related problems also emerged, as many schools felt that their would be less time to grade the exams because more time would be spent transporting tests from one location to the other. Since the tests would move from school to school and teachers would have to wait to grade Regents from different districts and boroughs, time will not be a luxury that can be wasted at the end of the school year.