The New York State Regents Agenda for 21-22: High School Graduation Requirements, Standardized Testing and CRT (lite)

The fifty states have fifty different school governance structures. In most states the governor appoints a board and the board selects a commissioner; New York State has  unique process, the 17-member of Regents are “elected” for five year terms by a joint meeting of the both houses of the state legislature, effectively by the Speaker of the Assembly, who involves the local elected members. The selections are non-political and the members are all high qualified. The two newest members are a retired principal and a school social worker. The governor has no role in the process. The members of the board elect a chancellor and choose a commissioner. I have been attending board meetings for a decade; none of the discussions has had a “political” taint.

Around the country, especially in Red states, legislatures and state boards reflect the politics of the moment, banning trans-gender students from participating in interscholastic sports, banning teaching material that makes student “uncomfortable, banning teaching the sordid side of our history and banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (that is not taught in K-12 schools))

Samuel Goldman, a professor at George Washington University writes

The swift success of the anti-CRT movement probably won’t save it from the fate of its predecessors, though. From laws requiring favorable presentation of free enterprise to protection for critiques of evolution, statute books are where conservative curriculum reforms go to die …

This level of decentralization is an obstacle to any coherent education policy. A challenge to CRT bans in particular is that they’re unpopular among the people responsible for enforcing them.

As Tyack and Cuban wrote in Tinkering Towards Utopia, unless parents and teachers are on board the reform of the moment is doomed to the trash bin of education detritus.

At the May Board of Regent meeting the members clarified their role as a policy maker, the role of local school districts and the adoption of a sweeping policy document, a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” policy statement.

The Regents exercise their authority in various ways, including by promulgating rules and regulations, adopting student learning standards, establishing academic and graduation requirements, and providing guidance and best practices to the field to ensure academic excellence for all students. The Board may also exercise its authority by adopting policy positions on significant educational and social issues. It is important for the Board of Regents to establish and communicate to all New Yorkers its beliefs and expectations for all schools and students – especially at those pivotal moments in history that we are currently experiencing.

We recognize that the decision to adopt a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy, as well as the contents of such a policy, are ultimately matters of local discretion  … districts should consider:  Specifically acknowledging the role that racism and bigotry have played, and continue to play, in the American story.

While the Regents do not mention Critical Race Theory, understandable, they ask educators to “acknowledge the role that racism and bigotry have played and continue to play in the American story.”

Kudos to the chancellor, the commissioner and the board members; in a world in which states are erasing history the education leaders in New York State are underlining the importance of teaching our history, our glorious moments and the dark underside of our history. Hopefully they will add to EngageNY, the state curriculum modules, to reflect the emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in lessons across the state.

Mayor de Blasio, as part of his education plan announced a new curriculum,

The plan’s most long-term vision is the creation of a new universal curriculum, which the city aims to finish developing by fall 2023.

Named the Universal Mosaic Curriculum, its goal is to provide culturally diverse lessons to help more students be engaged in school. The new curriculum will kick off this fall with nine million books being added to classroom libraries.

“I’m excited to ensure that every student is welcomed into an affirming, supportive and rigorous learning environment where they see themselves in the curriculum,” [acting chancellor] Porter said. “I’m more excited than I’ve ever been in my two decades in education for our most important first day of school.”

Pre-pandemic the Regents began a thorough review of New York State graduation requirements (See current requirements here). In the mid-nineties the Regents began to phase out the dual diploma, many students, especially students of color were tracked into the lower Regents Competency (RCT) Test diploma track. Slowly, very slowly, the state phased in the single Regents diploma. Today over 85% of students in the state graduate with a Regents/local diploma (See detailed graduation data here),  State Education has created a Multiple Pathways track, Safety Nets for children with disabilities http://www.nysed.gov/curriculum-instruction/cdos-pathway-regents-or-local-diploma, changed the English Regents exam to one day instead if two,  the Global Regents Studies to cover only the 10th grade (instead of 9th and 10th grade).

The state acknowledges,

While steady progress is being made to narrow the achievement gaps between the graduation rates of Black and Hispanic/Latino students compared to their White peers, the achievement gaps between these groups of students remain significant.

Significant progress has been made; we have to target ELLs,

                             Cohorts                       2015    2016

Current ELLs38.946.0+7.1

A core question is whether the state should primarily address graduation requirements or address the cohorts who fail to graduate?

Should we continue to require five Regents examination as a graduation requirement?  Should the Regents continue as end-of-course requirements, not a graduation requirement?  Should schools/school districts be allowed to replace Regents with projects?  How would a project system pass a “reliability and validity” test?  In other words, “inter-rater reliability?

Will lowering the graduation bar increase graduation rates and at the same time reduce the value of a diploma?   

The state should examine why students are dropping out.

To go to work?  Lack of appropriate schools?  Parenting responsibilities? Should the state create more transfer high schools?

And another role:  will the Regents take the leading advocating for alernatives to standardized testing? here

A busy year awaits.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens discuss Afro-American contributions to Country Music  here

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