The State Education Department as well as the New York City Department of Education consistently point to rising high school graduation rates. Whether the rising rates are due to more efficient management structures, credit recovery, pressures within schools for kids to accumulate credits or better leadership and more effective instruction we don’t know, and the school district, city and state leaderships don’t appear to be concerned as long as the metrics increase.
The increases are at the margins – significant numbers of kids do not reach the “college and career readiness” benchmarks – grades of 75 on the English Regents and 80 on the Math Regents.
The city and the state are not asking: who are kids who are not graduating?
The answer: Students with Disabilities (SWD), English language learners and the “gray” area kids – kids who pass all their subjects and cannot pass five regents exams. The move to Common Core Regents exam will only increase the number of kids not graduating.
New York State has moved to a “one size fits all” system – either you accumulate credits and pass five regents, or, you don’t graduate. Period. In the nineties the State began the phase out of the dual diploma – the Regents and the Regents Competency Test (RCT) diplomas, a system which recognized the varying levels of student ability.
Should the State allow for “Multiple Pathways,” other paths to graduation aside from the “standard model.” The State has been approving a waiver for twenty-five high schools – a “portfolio-roundtable” option within the Performance-Based Standards Consortium.
For a number of years the Board of Regents has been grappling with the question of high school graduation requirements. The internal argument: should we “nibble around the edges” or take a deep look and make coordinated changes, if we feel they are appropriate? The Board recently added a Research Paper requirement – however – it will only impact the 2014 entering class – the 2017 senior graduating class will be the first on which the new requirement will impact.
As the Regents and the Department struggle with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the impact of the Common Core state tests, the principal/teacher accountability system (APPR), the collection of personal student data and the report of John Flanagan, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma issued a report entitled. “Rethinking Pathways to High School Graduation in New York State.” The report represents the thoughts of a range of organizations.
The recommendations of the report:
Reduce the Number of Exit Exams Required to Graduate with a High School Diploma from 5 to 3.
The recommendation would retain the English, Mathematics and the Science Regents and make the two Social Studies Regents – Global Studies and American History optional – although the recommendation would retain the course requirements.
Develop a Pathway to Graduation That Allows All Students to Demonstrate Their Knowledge and Skills Through State-Developed and/or Approved Performance-Based Assessments
In other words in lieu of a regents exam New York State would offer a performance-based assessment, as do the 25 schools with an approved state waiver.
Build More Flexibility and Support into the Current System to Make It More Accessible to Students.
The report suggests easing the Regents appeals procedure and provide alternative assessments for student in Career and Technical Education programs.
Ensure Transparency in Communications and Monitoring of All Aspects of the Multiple Pathways System.
The report urges better communications to families in regard to alternative pathways as well as a far more transparent system so that we can compare outcomes across multiple student groups.
The Multiple Pathways coalition faces an awesome task.
The Commissioner is battling increasingly angry constituencies around the state, the skirmishes have turned in to battles, the electeds, fearing voter backlash are introducing legislation and the governor, who has always stayed at the edge of the fray, may take a more active role.
The Common Core Algebra Regents Exam is due in June with the rollout of the rest of the Common Core exams over the next few years, and, let’s not forget PARCC. The Commissioner is committed to moving the current state tests to the PARCC exams in the near future, and, the PARCC exams not only replace the grades 3-8 tests they overlap the Regents, PARCC requires testing in grades 3-11.
I think the “air in the room” is too invested in the current maelstrom.
And, let’s not forget, we will probably have a new chancellor for New York City in a few days.
Hopefully the coalition report will begin a dialogue. Over the past few years the “dialogue” has been one-way – State Education and the Regents defending policy initiatives as the “field” pushes back.
Arne Duncan, John King, Mayor Bloomberg, the CEOs of major corporations all bemoan the state of American education – they cry that the just released international PISA scores highlight how our system is failing. Amanda Ripley, in “The Smartest Kids in the World does a wonderful analysis of the kids in schools in Finland, South Korea and Poland, three of the highest achieving school systems in the world. She asks whether the American people want those schools, or, maybe we have the school we want.
In January the Regent promise a block of time to discuss Multiple Pathways – let’s hope an important topic gets to breathe part of the air.