Does New York State test too much? Did you know that New York State used to give Regents exams in 42 different subjects? Or, in the 1930’s the state rewarded students with the highest scores on Regents exams with scholarships? Or, in the 50’s and 60’s the state offered a statewide exam and gave Regents Scholarships to high performers?
By the 70’s the state offered an alternative to the traditional Regents exams, the 8th grade level Regents Competency Exam (RCT), the RCT exams was sufficient for admission to CUNY and SUNY schools.
Beginning with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965 the state tested students in grades four and eight in English and Mathematics. The scores were listed in the New York Times, in order, with widespread coverage of the scores. A school on a tree-lined street in Bayside would lead the city and a school in Soundview in the Bronx would be at the bottom of the list.
The passage of the Ted Kennedy-sponsored No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 required testing in Grades 3-8
In 1997 the Regents began the phase out of the RCT exams – it took fifteen years as the Regents, fearing sharp declines in graduation rates, keep postponing the full implementation.
The Obama-Duncan administration required testing on steroids and New York State was quick to jump on the performance-enhancing bandwagon.
While parents and teachers opposed the hyped up testing regimen it wasn’t until the spring, 2013 that the sans culottes rushed the Bastille.
The release of the New York State Grades 3-8 test scores created a tsunami – the scores dipped 30%, kids who had high scores for years suddenly saw their scores drop below the “proficiency” level, they failed the test.
The new tests were based, for the first time, on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a substantially different kind of test.
[Commissioner] King said that, as expected, the percentage of students deemed proficient is significantly lower than in 2011-12. This change in scores – which will effectively create a new baseline of student learning – is largely the result of the shift in the assessments to measure the Common Core Standards, which more accurately reflect students’ progress toward college and career readiness.
The state teacher union (NYSUT) and a few members of the Regents asked that SED declare a moratorium on the impact of the test – the commissioner demurred.
New York’s teachers’ unions are demanding that state Commissioner John King work to establish a three-year moratorium on using common-core-aligned test results for judging schools, students, or teachers—and imply that they will join calls for his removal if he doesn’t.
Hostility to the testing regime has grown throughout the state among teachers and parents. The anger bubbled over at the parent meeting in Poughkeepsie (watch the U-Tube here). After speaking for an hour and forty minutes the commissioner responded to parents for twenty minutes – the parents were seething – the U-Tube has garnered over 50,000 views.
King blamed “special interests” for his raucous reception and refused to identify who he was referencing.
Capital Confidential, a widely read blog, reports,
State Education Commissioner John King refused Tuesday to identify the “special interests” whose raucous behavior at a Poughkeepsie town hall on the new Common Core school standards led to cancel four other meeting …
“Google it,” King told reporters who asked him to identify the special interests he blamed for wrecking the planned sessions.
The disaster in Poughkeepsie led to calls for resignation from parents across the state.
In an effort to win back the proletariat the commissioner issued an October 24th letter. The letter avers, “… the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making.”
The letter goes on the describe a few alterations,
* Students can substitute the Algebra Regents for the 8th Grade Math test
* Eliminate field testing for multiple choice questions and reduce time for field testing of constructive response questions.
The changes are minor, very minor, and whether or not the commissioner will agree to a review of the Common Core Standards is to be decided – teachers and principals have complained that a number of standards in the early grades are “age inappropriate.”
Hovering in the background are the PARCC tests – not only Common Core tests, tests without any curriculum, basically a national test. At the October Regents meeting deputy commissioner Ken Wagner gave an upbeat presentation of the PARCC testing agenda (See Power Point here).
While the Regents voted not to move to the PARCC tests in the 2014-15 school year – the commissioner clearly intends to move to PARCC at some point. The PARCC assessments greatly increase the number of assessments and the length of the assessments.
We all know what happened on July 14th, 1789 (or, should know); maybe the Poughkeepsie incident was our Bastille?
The parent anger will continue and grow, the legislators, responding to parent anger, will flex their muscles, the commissioner will continue to flit around the state trying to quell the parent fires.
Barrack Obama, Arne Duncan, David Coleman, John King all bought in, American education is subpar and the only way to “raise the bar” is to create a new “passing” score based on aspirational standards, and, creating brand-new exams, with new much higher cut scores.
Parents saw a commissioner who was telling them that Johnny and Mary weren’t as smart as they had been last year, and the years before; telling parents that principals and teachers had been fooling them into believing that their kids were doing fine, that the many thousands of dollars in school taxes were being wasted or, was it the commissioner who was wrong?
You can mess with a lot of things; you can’t mess with someone’s kids.
Louis XVI did not fare well after July 14th.