July 9, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
The Department of Education is dismissing concerns raised by Council Member Robert Holden last month over suspected grade inflation in schools across the city.
Holden brought forward concerns earlier this year about schools unfairly inflating the grades of its students after observing high passing rates at schools with students who performed extremely poorly on standardized State exams.
The DOE, however, said last week that comparing the two standards—classroom grades and State exam results—is not fair.
“It’s apples and oranges to compare students’ classroom grades over the course of a full school year with their performance on a two-day State exam,” a spokesperson for the DOE said on Wednesday. “That’s why the State passed a law that says State exam scores can’t dictate whether students pass their classes and move on to the next grade. Graduation rates, college readiness, and college enrollment are at record highs and test scores are improving, and we’ll continue to strengthen instruction and outcomes across our schools.”
Holden, who had a decades-long career as a CUNY professor, first brought up the issue of grade inflation during a meeting with Chancellor Richard Carranza on May 7, at which time Carranza reportedly said he was unaware of the problem.
The Council Member then penned a letter to Carranza on June 28, detailing his concerns. Holden cited M.S. 224 in the Bronx as one example where the disconnect between classroom grades and state exam results is highest. According to DOE data, 94 percent of students at M.S. 224 passed their classes, while a mere 2 percent of those same students passed the State exam.
Holden says he witnessed first-hand the detrimental effects that such student grade inflation can have once that student reaches college.
“The DOE can cite graduation rates and college enrollment all they want, but as a CUNY professor for nearly 40 years I saw first hand the effect this grade inflation has on the college readiness of our students,” Holden said. “I had countless students from public schools that were required to take remedial classes in Math and English while in college. In the past decade, up to 80 percent of CUNY students were taking remedial classes, and that number did not decline until CUNY lowered its acceptance standards. It is clear to me that grade inflation is misleading our students and parents, and as a result the students are woefully unprepared to compete at the next level.”
Since writing to the Chancellor, Holden’s office has reportedly received more than 100 letters of support from constituents. It has also begun to have discussions with the DOE administration to address the issue.
The DOE said Wednesday that it has been making changes in recent years, both in the curriculum and leadership. The department has launched Algebra for All in the city’s middle schools to ensure that all eighth graders have access to algebra, and has implemented a College Access for All initiative to help students plan for college and careers beginning in middle school.