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After test tampering concerns, Regents exams will be scanned

High school Regents exams have long come under criticism for being easy to game: Teachers grade their own students’ work, and checks against cheating are flawed. That could change next year with a new rule voted in by the Board of Regents.

Rather than rely on a group of teachers and state officials to examine tests for grade tampering, the city will begin scanning students’ multiple choice answer sheets next year. State officials said scanning tests will let them perform a high-tech cheating check called “erasure analysis.”

That means officials will be able to look for instances of teachers changing students’ answers by counting the number of times each student erased a wrong answer and bubbled in a correct one.

Next year, only six tests that students frequently take in order to get diplomas will be scanned, but in 2012 all Regents exams will be.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said instituting scanning part of a larger plan to increase the public’s trust in the state’s results.

“The audits that have been done on the exams have led people to ask about the results in some instances and the scanning is the first step towards maintaining the integrity of the results,” Tisch said.

Scanning will also give state education officials more information about the tests than they’ve ever had.

Currently, the state depends on school districts to send in their students’ Regents exam results, but does not collect data about how different kinds of students perform on the exams or how they fair on certain types of questions.

“It’s not that we’re going to be grading the tests at all,” said SED spokesman Tom Dunn. “It’s that we’re going to know a lot more about how 220,000 kids who took the algebra test did on question four or how they did on questions that looked at equations.”

Dunn said it was still unclear how New York City high schools would get their exams to the one scanning center in the city, but that the state and city have more than a year to work this out.

The EMSC Committee approve the recommendation below: The Department realizes that there will be costs associated with scanning Regents Answer sheets. To that end, we propose the following two step approach:

  1. Starting with the June Regents Administration in the 2010-2011 school year, require that all Regents Exams in the following titles be scanned for Department analysis: Comprehensive English, Integrated Algebra, Global Studies and Geography, U.S. History and Government, Living Environment, and Earth Science. These exams are all used for the awarding of a Regents Diploma.
  2. Commencing with the 2011-2012 school year (June Regents Administration), require that all remaining Regents Exams be scanned.