Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scrubbing the Curious Practice of Scrubbing

If you hadn't heard already that the state has officially banned the process known as "scrubbing," your principal has probably already had nightmares about it. Scrubbing refers to the re-scoring of borderline Regents exams to see if a failing exam might possibly be a passing one, or a mediocre exam might turn into an honors exam. One or two extra points on an essay, for example, on the English Regents can make a difference. You're never directly asked to violate your academic conscience, but if you can find it in your heart to give, say, a 4 instead of a 3 on the 6-point English rubric, well, that kid and that kid's teacher would really appreciate it.

I'm pretty sure that every single teacher who has ever scored a Regents exam has been asked to scrub at least once. I certainly have. I think the intentions were once noble; e.g. let's make sure a kid who's on the borderline isn't suffering from simply having the strictest grader on the team looking at his essay when even a slightly more generous grader would have boosted it a point. (You would think that the use of a uniform rubric would make this impossible, but there are gray areas and fuzzy borders in the rubric, too.) But obviously, in today's test-score mania, some administrators and department chairs order scrubbing en masse. And who can blame them, really? It's easy to mask the anxiety with the aforementioned noble intentions, and then everyone feels better. Seems like a win-win situation. Until, of course, the kid goes to CUNY community college 2 years later, having pulled out a 75 instead of a 74 on the English Regents so as to be exempt from remedial classes, only to find out that he or she is not really competent in 11th-grade reading and writing at all.

I've never liked scrubbing and I'm glad that the practice has been unambiguously ended. I wish I could say that I refused on principle to scrub; I didn't. But the pressure to do so will now be gone.

What are your thoughts on scrubbing?
blog comments powered by Disqus