7,000 NYC Students Barred from Graduation by DOE Mistake

Elementary and middle schoolers from all over New York City were blocked from attending their school graduations because a snafu at the NYC Department of Education had them marked as failing their end-of-year state exams. According to the New York Post, the Department realized its mistake after the exam results were released last week, but it was too late for most of the nearly 7,000 student affected since their graduation ceremonies had already taken place.

Megan Marrera, an eighth grader from Bell Academy Middle School, was told that she had failed her state English exam and wouldn't be allowed to participate, or even sit in the audience, at her graduation ceremony. Marrera, who said that she had already picked out a dress to wear to the celebration, was devastated and spent the entire day in bed in tears.

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.

Joyce Marrera decried the bureaucratic incompetence that kept her daughter from celebrating a milestone in her life with her classmates. The seeds of the mistake were sown two years ago when the dates of the state-mandated English and Mathematics exams were pushed forward, subsequently shifting the date the results were announced after the commencement of summer school classes. As a result, in order to make up the lists of students who must attend summer school, administrators use estimates and preliminary scoring. That is how students like Marrera ended up being told that they've failed and needed to enroll in summer classes before they'd be allowed to graduate.

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.

According to a Department spokesperson, school officials have some discretion over the decision to bar or admit students to graduation — especially in elementary schools. As for summer school, she added that most students who are mistakenly marked as failing passed only barely and could still benefit from additional remedial work.

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