In the late '70's NYS began giving RCTs (regents competency tests) to students who were not enrolled in regents classes. These tests were designed to establish a minimum level of achievement before a diploma was awarded.
My friend NYC Educator, writing about marking the English regents, reminded me of the stress these new exams caused the English department the first year these exams were given. In addition to the hundreds of regents papers, the department was now going to have even more essays to mark. To make things easier, every department was recruited to help with the marking. The idea was every teacher spoke and wrote English so everyone would be able to mark the exams.
I remember the grumbling. None of us wanted to mark extra papers but, being good boys and girls, we picked up our red pens and made our way to assigned rooms. Each room had one English teacher in charge and was assigned one essay. I remember marking the business letter. I, along with my fellow math, phys ed and science colleague were upset at the caliber of writing we were presented with and awarded very few points.
When we finished marking, the exams were submitted to the English department for review. Everyone was up in arms because our scores were so low. They immediately reread papers and grades were increased. They showed us what we should look for and how we should be grading. No one in that room could bring themselves to give passing grades to the junk we saw. Needless to say, we were never asked to grade English papers again.
Back then schools were not being judged so harshly on statistics but there was still pressure to pass as many as possible. I've never marked an English regents but I have read college essays and other material written by many of my AP calculus students, kids who not only passed the English regents but scored in the low to mid 80's. These kids, mostly foreign born could not write a grammatically correct sentence. Sometimes it was even hard to follow their train of thought. Most will end up back in ESL in college even though the state of NY has found them proficient in this area.
The state did away with RCTs in an effort to raise standards. Everyone has to pass a regents now. Passing a regents, passing an RTC, its all a bunch of hooey.