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Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Degraded" Schools in Regents-Test Fall

High schools that didn’t grade their own Regents exams last year fared worse than those that did

  • Last Updated: 9:42 PM, June 8, 2013
  • Posted: 1:12 AM, June 8, 2013
They lost their home-field advantage.
Schools that were barred from grading their own students’ Regents exam last year fared significantly worse than schools that continued to self-score — suggesting that students have benefitted from inflated grading for years.
At about 150 schools that had their Regents exams scored by a central team of educators, scores sank deeper across all five subjects than they did at schools that graded their own exams.
At more than a dozen schools that participated in last year’s Department of Education pilot program, passing rates plummeted by incredible margins, a Post analysis found.
“I know for a fact that some schools tell the teachers to pass the kids,” one principal said of the results. “When there’s a vested interest in your school doing well — because they’re your students — you’re going to tend to look for every point you have to so that your school has a good grade.”
But a Brooklyn high school principal said the differences seen in the pilot program — which were spurred by a statewide crackdown on shady scoring practices — don’t mean schools had been actively inflating their results.
He said that what could have played a role was the fact that teachers who scored the exams centrally work in schools with varying standards.
“If we had 10 people grading a paper . . . where that teacher’s coming from may determine how that teacher sees that paper,” he said. “You always have disagreement when you have that subjectivity.”
In US History, schools whose exams were graded centrally saw their passing rates drop by an average of 3.9 percentage points from 2011 to 2012.
By contrast, schools that graded their own exams boosted their passing rates by an average of 2.4 percentage points.
In Living Environment, pilot schools saw their passing rates plummet by an average of 6.7 percentage points last year.
Self-grading schools only dropped by 2 percentage points.
Compared to nonpilot schools, pilot-school passing rates also dropped by an additional 2.1 percentage points in English and 1.7 percentage points in math.
Those differences signify thousands of additional failing kids, because the exams are taken by 90,000 to 122,000 kids annually in each subject.
Department of Education officials cautioned against drawing conclusions from the trial run because of mitigating factors.
They said pilot schools tended to be higher-poverty, which may explain their steeper declines.
Also, results can be skewed by students who take exams multiple times and by changes to student populations.
Still, all five public high schools with the biggest drops in Regents scores had their exams scored externally.
At Choir Academy of Harlem, 66 percent of test-takers passed the US History Regents in 2011. Last year, when the exams were graded elsewhere, 13 percent did.
At Brooklyn Theatre Arts HS in Canarsie, 77 percent of kids passed the US History exam in 2011. Last year, just 21 percent did.
This is the first year all high schools are barred from scoring their own Regents.

Senator John Sampson's Problems With Public Accountability

Campaign contributions go missing in state Sen. John Sampson’s records

  • Last Updated: 6:38 AM, June 9, 2013
  • Posted: 11:55 PM, June 8, 2013
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Where did the money go?
Embattled state Sen. John Sampson’s campaign filings are peppered with missing cash and phantom refunds, The Post has found.
In three cases, money paid by political action committees to Sampson’s re-election campaign from 2009 to 2012 does not show up on his records.
Lawpac, run by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, donated $3,000 on June 17, 2009, state campaign-finance records show. But two days later, Sampson reported receiving only $1,000 from the group.
The Lawpac check was cashed for its full $3,000 amount on June 22, 2009, a source with knowledge of the payment told The Post.
SHOW US THE MONEY! State Sen. John Sampson’s campaign cashed donors’ checks but did not record their full amounts on its books.
Shannon DeCelle
SHOW US THE MONEY! State Sen. John Sampson’s campaign cashed donors’ checks but did not record their full amounts on its books.
The Educational Leadership PAC gave a $1,000 contribution to the Brooklyn Democrat’s campaign on Jan. 22, 2010. But the campaign reported receiving just $500 from the group and not until April 21, 2010.
A spokeswoman for the education PAC said the $1,000 check was cashed.
“I don’t know if there was a recording discrepancy on their end, but that’s what went out of here,” said Michelle Hebert, of the School Administrators Association of New York State, which oversees the PAC.
The Committee for Action for a Responsible Electorate PAC reported a contribution of $1,000 to Sampson’s campaign on Jan. 21, 2010. A spokesman for the PAC says the check was cashed for its full $1,000 amount on Feb. 2 2010. The cash does not show up on Sampson’s records, state campaign-finance records show.
In addition to the missing money, The Post found Sampson mysteriously refunded $11,450 in donations to at least eight PACs in 2010. However, the refunds do not show up as receipts in the campaign filings of the PACs, which include the Real Estate Board PAC, Uniformed Firefighters Association/FIREPAC and the Pharmacy PAC.
“What we’re talking about are small amounts,” said Mitch Alter, treasurer for the Committee to Re-elect John Sampson. “If mistakes were made, we’ll correct them. There’s nothing nefarious here.”
Sampson, 47, last month was accused of embezzling nearly $500,000 of escrow money that he was supposed to safeguard in the sale of foreclosed homes in Brooklyn while acting as a court-appointed referee.
Prosecutors say he used the money to finance his failed bid for Brooklyn district attorney in 2005. Federal prosecutors say that when Sampson learned he was being probed, he used a mole in Brooklyn’s federal court to help him thwart the investigation.
Sampson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“Since New York state Senator John Sampson was indicted last month on multiple federal charges of embezzlement, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to the FBI, the media is justified in taking a very close look at Sampson’s finances,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a political watchdog group.
“If Sampson’s political bookkeeping is off by tens of thousands of dollars, the public deserves an explanation.”
Additional reporting by Melissa Klein