The Left Behind 26%: What Are We Doing for Students Who Can’t Pass Regents Exams? Should We Create Alternative Pathways to Employment?

New York State is quick to crow about the state’s 74% high school graduation rate, and deserves credit for creating a college readiness metric: at least a grade of 75 on the English Regents and 80 on a Math Regents

The college readiness graduation rate is disturbing.

Of the graduates in the 2007 cohort – started the 9th grade in September of 2007 – only 11% of Afro American and 14% of Hispanics graduated college ready.

The “answer” for the Commissioner is the rapid and full implementation of the Common Core supported by the PARCC assessments. The assessments (see sample questions: http://www.engageny.org/resource/new-york-state-common-core-sample-questions) are far more challenging than the current Pearson created tests.

The theory: teachers will differentiate and scaffold and ratchet up their teaching to prepare students for the upcoming rigorous assessments. Teachers will be measured against each other and the progress of their students using a combination of standardized test scores, Student Learning Objectives and school leader/peer classroom observations utilizing a common lens, i. e., Danielson Frameworks.

Currently 26% of kids fail to graduate. The 26% are primarily students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), English Language Learners, and Afro Americans (primarily males).

Research tells us we can identify, with a high degree of confidence who the dropouts will be in the fifth grade. See Achieve Report  and the National High School Center, among a host of similar reports.

High wealth zip codes have graduation rates above 90% and high poverty zip codes graduation rates in the 50% range. New York City graduation rates are tarnished by widespread use of “credit recovery” and cheating that the department of education has steadfastly refused to acknowledge, until the state set up an office of test integrity.

At the December 10th Regents Meeting the state rolled out a Career Skills Credential, to some extent a replacement for the “IEP diploma,” which was not a diploma.

Students with disabilities, aka, special education students, who pass courses but cannot pass Regents exams with a safety net score of 55, simply don’t graduate. The Credential would provide IEP students with a document that reflects the achievement of defined skills and could provide a path employment. See description here.

In the accompanying committee report the writers mused whether the Credential should available to all students.

Would making a pathway available to students who are not succeeding on tests be a fruitful way of keeping potential dropouts in school? Or, would it establish a tracking system and discourage schools from striving to keep all students in a Regents track?

The two key indicators are performance and attendance. As students receive low grades on standardized tests and are shunted into remedial programs  a downward spiral commences which leads to poorer and poorer attendance, growing discipline problems and school leaving: dropping out.

If  students could enter a Career Skills Credential track, yes, tracking students, a track which leads to employment:  is it better than our current efforts? Some students increase skills and graduate with a Regents diploma, for others school is simply a holding place until it’s time to move to unemployment and the hardscrabble streets.

For many the “answer” is to move these students into what we used to call vocational high schools now known as Career and Technical Education. The Association for Career and Technical Education  lists sixteen career clusters with numerous paths within each cluster. Career and Technical Education no longer means training kids to be carpenters, electricians and plumbers. In fact most of the “55 Jobs of the Future” don’t exist yet.  Rather than listing jobs we should list skills that would match a range of jobs. Read about the “Re-Working of Work.”

The term College and Career Ready is already archaic – an example of one of the “jobs of the future,”

Smart Dust Programmers – In its simplest form, smart dust consists of a sensor combined with a wireless transmitter and some kind of power source. Many are envisioning the power to come from wireless RF signals. The reason it is referred to as “smart dust” is because the technology is shrinking in size until it reaches the particle size of dust. Future designs for smart dust involve detecting everything from moisture content, to soil temperature, to chemical composition. More details here.

The feds, the state and the city are relying on the Common Core to “raise all boats,” to create a new ethos, a new Common Core teaching and learning, the impact of a new way of teaching, kids will be smarter, more highly motivated and we’ll see scores on the international measures, TIMSS and PISA soar, we will scramble up the world rankings. Unfortunately standard movements in the past have never had their intended impact, See David Tyack and Larry Cuban, “Tinkering Toward Utopia.”

Will the left behind, the 26%, benefit?

Will the sixteen year old in the eighth grade with his head down on his desk, a kid who has only known failure be “awakened” by the Common Core? Or, must we seek additional pathways?

One response to “The Left Behind 26%: What Are We Doing for Students Who Can’t Pass Regents Exams? Should We Create Alternative Pathways to Employment?

  1. The common core will leave quite a few struggling students behind. It does not work for a student body who grows up in poverty, ELL’s or Special Education Students. It is just wishful thinking that common core will solve our education problems.

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