More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school school students were wrongly banned from attending their graduation ceremonies after education officials mistakenly thought the students had failed state exams, the New York Post reports.
The city's Department of Education had overestimated the number of failing students, but only caught their mistake after the graduation ceremonies had already taken place. The 7,034 students were notified last week -- after they had taken just over a week of summer school and missed their graduations -- that it was all a mistake. They were among 30,000 city students who were told they would be held back unless they went to summer school and passed another exam in August.
"When they told me I wasn't graduating, I was very sad. I felt like such a failure," Bell Academy MS eighth grader Megan Marrera told the Post. "The day of the graduation, I was crying in bed."
Her mother is even more upset now that Marrera was "robbed of seeing a milestone in her life" by missing a graduation ceremony she deserved.
The city blunder stems from a state change in testing schedule that pushed back exam dates and thus delaying the official determination of a student's passing status. While the city grades its own students' exams and have the raw scores before graduation dates, they don't know whether a student's scale score actually passes the state's standards until the state sets the cut-off score.
As a result, the city has been forced to use rough estimates to determine who passed -- and who could graduate based on those estimates.
The wrongly flagged students will no longer have to complete summer school and will be promoted as usual in the fall. But that doesn't refund the $6,000 one mother spent on a private tutor to ensure her son passed the August exam. And while that Paulo Intermediate School mother says she knows her son could use the extra help in math -- a city education spokesperson told the Staten Island Advance that the wrongly flagged students only passed by a small margin -- she doesn't understand why he was denied the chance to walk at graduation.
"If my son had walked at the graduation that day, what significance would it have made if he failed? He would have gone to summer school, or he would have repeated the eighth grade," she said. "The fact that he wasn't there affected us greatly more than if it had been reversed."
Now, some parents are calling for the state to release scaled and cut-off scores earlier or administer the test a month earlier.
"I just don't understand why they can't get these test scores out sooner, nevermind do away with these tests altogether," a mother told the Advance.
Her final sentiment is shared among thousands in New York. More than 1,100 college professors across the state signed a petition in June rallying against excessive, high-stakes K-12 standardized testing. They argue that the exams have failed to improve schools over the last 10 years -- a recent analysis found that Bloomberg's new schools have failed to improve the academic standing of city students.
The petition came a few weeks after dozens of parents and students rallied in protest outside the New York City offices of exam publisher Pearson Education to fight the growth of high-stakes standardized testing.