While Mike was talking to the UN about his plans on lowering carbon emissions and other green issues, the daily news was reporting on the amount of green being wasted on administering tests.
The city is moving to more than triple its costs for grading mandatory student exams - spending $32 million this year, up from $9 million last year. It's the expensive result of 2006 state and federal rules requiring certified teachers to grade every standardized test given to kids in grades 3 to 8. "It's a pretty enormous job," said schools testing director Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger. "They're scoring almost 500,000 student test papers." In the past, teachers graded the bulk of the tests during the school day. This year, the city shifted the work to overtime. "At least now the public can see the cost [of scoring] as opposed to before when it was taken out of classroom budgets," said teachers union President Randi Weingarten, who yesterday joined a coalition of advocates and elected officials at a City Hall rally to demand more money for schools.
She's among advocates who have slammed the city for rising testing expenses that include $160 million for five-year contracts with IBM and CTB/McGraw Hill, companies hired to analyze test results and provide practice tests. Unlike those expenses - made at the city's discretion - scoring the exams is required of all school districts. On the reading exam, teachers grade a section where kids write short essays. On the math exam, students must show how they solved the problem.
"It's an unfunded mandate," said Barbara Bradley of the New York State School Boards Association. "How do you grade these tests? Are you disrupting instruction? Are you hiring substitutes?" Last year, the city required middle and elementary schools to pull one to four teachers out of their classrooms for about two weeks so they could grade the written portion of the exams. Some schools replaced them with substitutes and others shuffled staff - a process principals said was disruptive. "It impacted instruction," said Gregory Hodge of Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy. "The cost may not be very measurable but ...schools run better when their teachers are in school." Bell-Ellwanger had no estimate of what schools spent on substitutes. But the city's total scoring budget last year was $4.2 million for the reading test and $4.9 million for math.