Scoring Shift

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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.