State education officials, who have set high expectations for students and teachers, failed their own test of accuracy and fairness Monday, local school officials contended.
The state Education Department released school-by-school figures showing how many seniors have passed the English Regents exam and therefore are on track to graduate in June.
But while the data was released the week after many students took and passed the January English Regents exam, it did not include results from that test. Therefore, the report presents a highly exaggerated count of students who still need to pass the exam to earn diplomas, the school administrators say.
"The numbers are not correct and don't reflect the efforts people are making to meet the standards," said Peter Roswell, superintendent of Hamburg Central Schools. "That's not fair to the staff, and it's especially not fair to the students."
According to the state report, 77 Hamburg seniors -- or 25 percent of the district's potential graduating class -- failed to pass the English Regents exam, and must do so by June to graduate.
But after last week's test, all but four of the seniors -- or just 1.3 percent of the class -- had passed the exam.
Roswell said he is considering whether to send letters of explanation to every household in the district.
At Sweet Home High School, the state report says, 51 seniors -- or 20 percent of the class -- had not yet passed the required English Regents exam. Again, the state does not report that 45 of them passed the exam last week, leaving only six who have not yet earned a passing grade.
And in Williamsville, about 1 percent of the seniors have not yet passed the exam, not the 3 percent reported by the state.
"The information, in a sense, is obsolete," said Linda Cimusz, an assistant superintendent of the Williamsville School District. "It comes literally one day before our lists are updated."
Cheektowaga School Superintendent Leslie Lewis said the reporting mix-up reflects widespread concerns that he has about the execution of the state reform plan.
"This has nothing to do with educating kids and a lot to do with embarrassing public schools," he said. "I'm not surprised at anything that comes out of Albany."
The state report, which said 92 percent of the state's high school seniors already have passed the English Regents exam, was designed to show where the state's seniors stood at the end of the 1998-99 school year, said Bill Hirschen, a spokesman for state Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills.
While acknowledging that the report became outdated last week, Hirschen said it provides valuable information that was never before made public.
"It takes a couple of months to collect all the information and present it in the way we did," he said. "We do it as quickly as we can."
The results of last week's English Regents exam will be released in a few months, the state said.
When he released the data on Monday, Mills said it shows that the state standards are realistic and will not -- as critics contend -- leave behind large numbers of students.
By 2003, students will have to pass five Regents exams -- in English, math, American history, global studies and a science -- to receive a diploma.
Because the English Regents is the first requirement to kick in, results of that test are being watched closely.
At the start of this school year, 92 percent of the state's high school seniors had passed the exam. An additional 4 percent had taken it but not yet passed, and another 4 percent had not yet taken it. The exam will be offered again in June and August.
"Students and schools are showing that New Yorkers can and will achieve higher standards of learning," Mills said.
An additional 30,000 students entered ninth grade in 1996 but were held back at least one grade and are not represented in the figures released Monday. They normally would be expected to now be seniors.
"We must not forget these students as we look today at the seniors," Mills said. "All school districts must give them extra help."