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Blizzard means high schools will grade some of their own students’ exams

After a blizzard caused the city to cancel school Tuesday and reschedule that day’s Regents exams, officials are preparing for even more possible snow-related test changes.

One immediate change is that high schools will now grade some of their own students’ Regents exams, temporarily suspending a policy put in place to curb score inflation. And the city has plans in place if the snowstorm keeps schools closed Wednesday or stops schools from getting the necessary materials ahead of the tests.

On Monday, the city announced that the next day’s scheduled global history and Algebra Regents exams would be moved to Thursday. Now, that global history test — which is the most frequently failed required Regents exam — and Wednesday’s scheduled U.S. history test will be graded at the students’ schools rather than at centralized grading sites as originally planned, according to education department memos sent out Monday afternoon. The other exams are still set to be graded centrally.

The scoring change temporarily reverses new policies the city implemented in recent years after a disproportionate number of students earned the exact minimum Regents passing score of 65, suggesting that teachers might have bumped up the scores of their students who were on the verge of passing. One of the new policies is a partial ban on schools scoring their own students’ exams. After those policies were rolled out in some schools in 2012, the share of students earning 65s fell by half. Today, all the January and June Regents tests are scored at central sites, while schools still grade their own August exams.

The memos sent to schools Monday afternoon after the next day’s tests were rescheduled noted that the extreme weather could cause additional disruptions to the exams, which high school students must pass in order to graduate.

One notice said that if schools remain closed on Wednesday, then students would take that day’s exams on Friday. In that case, schools would score all of their students’ exams, the memo said.

Another notice said the state was attempting to deliver Wednesday’s test materials on Monday afternoon, even as the city said a travel ban would go into effect that night. For any schools that don’t receive the materials on Monday, the state will try to deliver them before the tests are set to begin at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, according to the memo. But it also acknowledged that all the materials may not be shipped by that time.

“In the case that your school does not receive materials by the exam start time, please contact NYSED,” said the city memo, referring to the state education department.

State and city officials did not immediately respond to questions Monday afternoon about the deliveries. A city education department spokeswoman said the agency was being flexible with its grading policy so that there would not be unnecessary delays in getting students their scores.

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