According to New York City School Chancellor Dennis Walcott, further budget cuts by the Department of Education forced schools to have less monitoring visits on testing days this year.
“In a number of areas we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions around how the budget realities have an impact,” Walcott said at a charity event in Brooklyn Wednesday. Assuring the audience of his hope to restore the program fully before next year's standardized testing dates, Walcott added that he couldn't guarantee this would be possible.
“I’m very clear about the importance of high standards and making sure those standards are reached in a proper way, not in an improper way,” Walcott said, according to Gotham Schools “I mean, our goal is to do as much as we can within our budget limits to make sure we have monitors out there."
School monitors are full or part-time department employees who visit various schools during the six day period when testing for grades 3 through 8 is ongoing. They are required to maintain fairness standards by grading the school based on 20 administration guidelines such as storage of testing documents, assignment of proctors, and maintenance of allotted times.
Walcott's announcement comes after teachers at a Brooklyn elementary school were accused in May of giving their students answers to exam questions on state tests. In return for high scores on those exams, teachers at Public School 94 were allegedly offered perks like smaller classes and fewer non-English-speaking students.
A separate cheating scandal rocked New York's elite Stuyvesant High School in June when junior Nayeen Ahsan was caught taking pictures of a Spanish exam. He was accused of distributing test answers to more than 50 other students, and allegedly also photographed and handed out answers to the statewide physics and English Regents exams. Ahsan was expelled shortly after the incident.
Implementing cheating investigations seems to have worked in other school districts as well, but budget cuts in districts like California have obliged these school districts to go back to voluntary reporting instead.
This standard, however, is not nearly as efficient in finding cheating scandals, but schools will have to work on finding a system that works while budget cuts are a reality they can't avoid Walcott said.
“I think the balancing act is taking a look at the cost factor involved in that as well, but we’re always looking to improve the system," he said.