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7,000 city students wrongly blocked from attending graduation

Ohanian Comment: And here we have the overweening power of the exam--even the yet-to-be graded exam. In New York City, they don't just rely on test scores; they rely on rough estimates, aka guesses on what test will reveal when it is scored, to decide on who attends graduation and who doesn't.

People posting remarks at the newspaper website were determinedly unsympathetic, going out of their way to make ugly comments. Basically, they feel if a kid is any kind of a success, he'll have more graduations to celebrate--and if 8th grade graduation is the only one, he's just a loser. So once more I have to ask myself why I read comments by people who have nothing better to do with their lives than vent their ugliness.

I still have the very special dress my mother made for my 8th grade graduation.

By Yoav Gonen and Lorena Mongelli

As many as 7,000 city elementary- and middle-school students were wrongly barred from attending their graduation ceremonies this year because education officials mistakenly thought they had failed state exams.

Test scores announced last week revealed that the Department of Education had overestimated how many students had failed the exams and needed to attend summer school -- but the reversal came only after students had already missed their class celebrations.

"I was looking forward to my graduation -- I had a red, strapless dress picked out and sandals. I couldn't wait to wear my cap and gown and graduate with all my friends," said Bell Academy MS eighth-grader, Megan Marrera --who was barred from even sitting in the audience at her graduation last month.

"When they told me I wasn̢۪t graduating, I was very sad. I felt like such a failure," she added. "The day of the graduation, I was crying in bed."

The 13-year-old was stunned to learn last week that she actually passed the English exam she had been told she failed -- and should have been allowed to graduate with her Bayside classmates.

The news left her mother, Joyce, steamed over the injustice -- particularly because her daughter worked extra hard to keep her grades up while dealing with a medical condition.

"I feel that Megan was robbed of seeing a milestone in her life, and that's unforgivable," she said. "There's no way to go back to that day now."

The city's troubles with identifying failing students began after the state pushed back the date of its annual math and English exams two years ago -- causing the release of scores to be delayed until after summer school starts.

The change forced the city to use preliminary scoring and rough estimates -- rather than the actual results -- to determine who didn't pass the exams.

Critics say the inaccuracy of that method should have loosened the department's strict policy that bars failing students from attending their graduation or stepping-up events.

"You'd rather err on the side of allowing somebody to experience that rather than take it away based on a marking error," said a Brooklyn elementary school principal.

Department spokeswoman Erin Hughes said officials do allow principals some discretion with elementary school kids, "depending on the unique circumstance of an individual situation." She said a vast majority of students wrongly identified as having failed the exam just barely passed it -- so that they benefit from the extra instruction in summer school.

— Yoav Gonen and Lorena Mongelli
New York Post





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