On a muggy, hot June day a bureaucrat from an obscure division of the State Ed Department meets with Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner Steiner.
Steiner asks, “What’s the purpose of this meeting?”
The bureaucrat responds, “Where do you want us to set the scale scores on the Regents exams and the State ELA/Math test?”
Steiner, “What do you mean?”
The bureaucrat, “We design the exams but over the last few years we’ve learned from New York City … the State Ed Department decides how many correct answers are necessary for a passing grade on the Regents and we set proficiency levels on the State tests … I would suggest setting the scores and proficiency slightly below last years … we’ll show progress and we can escalate the gains every year.”
For the last two years scores on ELA and Math exams have jumped, Joel Klein crowed, however the scores jumped across the entire state. Are teachers teaching better? Have we added “something” to the NYS air? Or, has the State set the scale scores, aka, the “passing rate” at a lower level?
The New York State high school diploma was once the platinum standard, capped by rigorous subject area regents exams, and, a state-wide competition, an exam for high school seniors, the students with the highest grades received scholarships … as the world morphed to open enrollment, “good intentions” to increase the number of graduates of students of color … we knew where the road to good intentions leads.
Chancellors of the Board of Regents were anonymous, ofttimes a businessman from upstate, and the commissioner was an education insider. The combination of newly selected Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the scion of a real estate empire, and on a first name basis with Joel, Randi and Mike, and Commissioner David Steiner, an academic with a long list of scholarly papers, and no public school experience. is intriguing.
Andy Wolf, a harsh critic of the Klein years is quite optimistic that David Steiner is an excellent choice. Merryl Tisch has been quite outspoken, supports “higher standards,” and, at a Center for NYC Affairs panel on Mayoral Control in the spring of 2008 called Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf “arrogant.”
For reasons only known deep within the portals of the majestic State Education building in Albany, New York City has been allowed to operate as a quasi independent entity. The redesign of a school required the filing and approval of a detailed plan, with the participation of the bargaining agent (i.e., the union), until the Klein years. If these detailed reports are filed they remain a mystery, the current DOE appears to have carte blanche re which schools are closed.
Will the new leadership of the SED continue to allow the DOE freedom to run themselves, apart from state regs?
The first test will come this fall … will the state issue rigorous regulations for credit recovery?
Pre-Klein every school was required to maintain a course accreditation committee, the committee, approved all new and alternative courses, with the approval of the superintendent. Credit recovery is not mentioned in state regs … school leaders decide how students make up failed courses. In some schools a student can skip all of their classes, a term, or a few years later, complete a “report,” with no standards whatsoever, and “earns” credits. In the spring of 08 the SED chided the department, it took a year, for the DOE and the state to agree upon draft regs ,,, regs that basically condone the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Chancellor Tisch has taken a strong position,
“The days of driving Mack trucks through this policy are officially over,” Merryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the State Board of Regents, said in a recent interview. “We are going to put real teeth on this.”
Will the dynamic duo, Tisch/Steiner, begin to restore the “platinum” reputation of New York State, or the “manipulate the data” lessons of the Klein years?
We’re keeping our fingers crossed.