Seventy-one students attending the elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City will now be required to retake their Regents exams because of cheating. According to the New York Daily News, six of the students also face suspensions for receiving and responding to text messages containing photos of test answer sheets sent by a junior who has since been expelled from the school.
Sixteen-year-old Nayeem Ahsan was caught sending out the questions and answers to the Spanish regents more than a month ago. An investigation by the New York City Department of Education also found that he had previously sent out photos of regents exams in Physics and English.
It isn't clear how the DOE officials decided which students will receive additional punishment like suspension or expulsion, but all will now be forced to retake their exams. The current plan is to schedule the retests for sometime this August. Those students who will only be forced to resit their exams can consider themselves lucky. Unlike a suspension, a Regents score invalidation isn't something that appears on the permanent academic record, which will mean that colleges will not find out about the incident.
All but one of the students were busted as part of the high-tech cheating scam. The remaining student was caught passing old-fashioned notes during the physics Regents, city officials said.
Ahsan, a popular student, inspired an outpouring of support from classmates, including an online petition to have him reinstated at the school. Walcott addressed the pleas for leniency head-on Monday.
"People don't understand why he was being picked on. He cheated. We have a discipline code to address that," Walcott said.
According to district Chancellor Dennis Walcott, officials aren't just limiting their investigation to the students. They are also looking at if the school staff, and specifically Stuyvesant's principal Stanley Teitel, knew about the cheating allegations and how they handled those allegations.
When the cheating scandal originally came to light, the reactions from the students and alumni on the school's Facebook page ranged from surprise that students would feel it necessary to cheat on New York's Regents exams — which are typically considered not to be challenging to Stuyvesant's students — to "well, everybody does it!" dismissal.
The scandal has revived questions about whether top students are under too much pressure to earn good grades and gain admission to the Ivy League school of their parents' dreams. However, Madeline Rivera, who graduated from Stuyvesant in June, told the New York Times that this is just a symptom of test-taking in the post-Facebook age. "I can assure you it is pretty much the same at every other high school," she said.