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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Parents in Dark as Dept. of Ed. Leaves it Up to Schools to Tell Parents if Kids Passed State Exams

Parents at dozens of schools may not know if their children passed state exams, even though the scores have been available for weeks, parents and advocates say.

In a cost-cutting move, the Education Department is leaving it up to schools to notify parents of the scores, officials said.

Although many parents looked up the information online or received reports after the state released scores in late September, more than 50 schools hadn’t sent reports home by the middle of last month, the parent group Coalition for Educational Justice said.

As a result, parents didn’t know how poorly their children did, didn’t request extra help – and, in rare cases, students who were wrongly promoted had to be demoted.

"The exams were in May," said Elisabeth Bikoko, who still has not received scores for her daughter, a seventh-grader at Pelham Academy of Academics and Community Engagement in the Bronx. "It is unacceptable that as parents we don’t have the results yet."

Critics say the Education Department should have found a way to inform parents, particularly those without computer access, before last month – especially since more than 100,000 extra students failed state math and English exams after officials raised the bar for passing them.

When Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wrote to the Education Department about the issue Oct. 14, an official responded, "Given the city’s dire budget situation, I’m sure you agree that limited resources should not be wasted on printing the [reports] centrally."

Stringer wasn’t satisfied.

"There’s a certain percentage of parents that don’t have access to computers," Stringer said.

The department said it has saved $1.5 million over two years by emailing reports to schools instead of printing and shipping them, even though some schools have struggled with the added cost of printing and mailing the five-page color reports.

"We took great care to alert parents when their children’s scores were available and how to access them, which worked for the overwhelming majority of our families," said spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. "In the small handful of cases where there was an issue, we quickly acted to make sure those reports were delivered to parents."

Juan Tavarez says he didn’t know his daughter, Lismayri Guzman, failed the state exams until three weeks into the school year – when she was pulled out of the Academy for Environmental Science in Brooklyn and put back into eighth grade.

"It’s been very, very frustrating," Tavarez said through a translator.

Javier Valdes, deputy director of Make the Road New York, said staffers could have opened up schools and libraries to help parents look up the information.

"It becomes a problem that only people with means can get the scores," he said.