Guilderland teachers made mistakes in grading more than 500 Regents exams, which led to 15 students passing the exam who would have otherwise failed.
School officials attributed the problem to simple human error.
“When this information came to our attention, we decided that our commitment to the integrity of the Regents exam left us no choice but to correct the scores,” said Superintendent Marie Wiles at a news conference Wednesday at the district office.
The district is allowing students who initially thought they scored a 65 or higher to keep that passing grade. Wiles said they don’t think it would be fair to make the students take the test again. Students would not have had the opportunity to sign up for summer school or for the August Regents, which are being held this week.
Students who missed the passing mark are usually students who struggle the most, Wiles added, and the next opportunity to take the test wouldn’t be until January when the content would not be fresh in their minds.
The state Board of Regents last year began requiring all school districts to have their Regents exam answer sheets electronically scored at the Northeast Regional Information Center (NERIC) located at Capital Region BOCES as an added measure of accountability.
Schools had three options to comply with this directive: sending the answer sheets to NERIC immediately after the test; hand score the test and then send the answer sheets to the agency; or purchase the hardware and software to complete the process in-house.
Guilderland officials chose the second. In the future, the district will no longer hand score the tests.
Discrepancies were found in 504 of 3,163 of the exams given. The district was using about 50 to 60 of its own teachers to grade the tests.
Many of these exams consist of multiple-choice questions and longer-response questions. Wiles explained that the mistake occurred when the tabulation of multiple sections of these exams was calculated.
“There were lots of places for human error. Teachers are human beings and errors happen,” she said. The average discrepancy was about a point or two in either direction, but there were larger variations, according to the superintendent.
“We had some that were over 10 points in either direction,” she said.
The test discrepancy did not affect any student’s graduation, according to Wiles.
Wiles noted that there were a couple of students who had signed up to take August Regents exams because they had failed one in June.
“They’re probably the happiest people this week,” she said.
She declined to discuss any potential penalties for those responsible for the mistake.
“We’re going to correct the discrepancies and we’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Principal Tom Lutsic said letters were going out either Wednesday or today to all students — whether or not they were affected by the change.
Victoria Jourdin, 15, who is going to be a junior at the school this fall, said she was concerned about how this matter was handled.
“It’s not fair to all the others kids that did pass and they let these kids pass when they weren’t supposed to,” she said.
New York State Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said there is no evidence of any malfeasance on the district’s part and they are moving ahead in accordance with state scoring policy. “They have cooperated with the department and have taken appropriate steps throughout,” he said in an emailed statement.
He said he could not speculate on the frequency of scoring mistakes but said it is why the state is requiring all districts to have their exam answer sheets electronically scored.
SED also supports the decision to pass students who scored lower than a 65 as a result of the scoring error on the grounds that the mistake was discovered too late in the summer and students would have missed the opportunity to attend summer school and retake the Regents.
Other districts do not score the tests by hand.