Advice to the NYS Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures would like to know:

What are the skills and abilities most needed by NY State graduates to be successful in their chosen post-secondary path?

A rather open ended question, I researched: what’s the difference between “skills” and “abilities?”

The most common answer:

“Ability simply refers to the potential of a person to do something. On the other hand, skill refers to the potential possessed by an individual to do something exceptionally well”

The “Thought Exchange” goes on to ask the participant to rate about fifty “skills and abilities” on a 1-5 scale: for what purpose?  (fill out the “Thought Exchange questionnaire here) maybe I’m unduly suspicious; however I fear the 64 members of the commission are being “nudged” by the state education leadership to pre-determined outcomes. Maybe too cynical, then again …

No one disagrees with the long list of “skills and abilities,” they are what we generally call “soft skills, (collaboration, critical thinking, etc.) we may feel differently about the importance of each item.  We acquire “soft skills” through interactions with others.

There is however a basic question for the Commission: How do the required courses for graduation impact the attainment of the “skills and abilities” and, shouldn’t the core of the Commission work be discussing amending/adding/subtracting the required courses?

A recent article in Chalkbeat begins with attention-getting headline, Goodbye, Regents? A New York commission mulls high school graduation requirements, Should the Regents Exams be at the core of the Commission work?

Aren’t we forgetting the CFE lawsuit, and the template the decision set?

the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (“CFE”) case, set up a template to guide the district court in determining if the State violated its duty to provide a sound basic education to all children, and remanded the case … The template defined a sound basic education as “the basic literacy, calculating, and verbal skills necessary to enable children to eventually function productively as civic participants capable of voting and serving on a jury.”

The criticism of the current Graduation Measures is, unfortunately based the failure to read the current requirements. I frequently hear “we should teach Civics,” no one would disagree, and, currently every high school student is required to complete a course entitled “Participation in Government,”  

Read the Participation in Government Frameworks here, see pp 45-47 and one of the sections of the course below,

POLITICAL AND CIVIC PARTICIPATION: There are numerous avenues for engagement in the political process, from exercising the power of the vote, to affiliating with political parties, to engaging in other forms of civic participation. Citizens leverage both electoral and non-electoral means to participate in the political process

A bill introduced in the State legislature last year, Assembly Bill A7220A

Requires senior high schools to provide a course in financial literacy and requires students to complete such course as a condition of graduation

Sounds like an excellent idea, except every high school student is currently required to complete a course entitled “Economics” and read one of the sections below, pp 47-50

INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THE ECONOMY: Individuals should set personal financial goals, recognize their income needs and debt obligations, and know how to utilize effective budgeting, borrowing, and investment strategies to maximize well-being.

We teach Civics, some schools teach Action Civics, students select an activity and lobby local elected or government officials: maybe too woke?

Teachers in New York State play a major role in constructing the Regents Exams and curriculum, for example, the Social Studies Frameworks; in fact, any teacher can apply to participate in one or more phases of the process.  See the Test Development Frameworks Application here

The Blue Ribbon Commission, in my opinion, should be exploring:

Do the current course requirements for a high school diploma prepare students adequately for postsecondary education and the world of work?  For example, a computer chip manufactory facility is being constructed in the Syracuse-Rochester area: thousands of high paying jobs: I inquired “What would be the minimal mathematics skills required for employment?  Answer: Algebra 2. How many students in the Syracuse-Rochester area pass the Algebra 2 Regents? Answer: Too few

Should the math sequence be Algebra 1 and a two-year Algebra 2 sequence?  Math teachers should be engaged around a discussion of the math sequence, and course content, and, of course, the Regents or other end year assessments.

Should a course be required teaching Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other standard computer programs?

Should a computer science course be required? Or, at least, available to every student?

And, the “elephant in the room,” should Regents Examinations be ended, decoupled from graduation, retained or another option?

The Commission should ask: How many students pass all required courses for graduation and fail to graduate because they cannot pass one or more Regents Exams? Who are the students fail the Regents, and why are they failing? Who are the students who fail courses and why are they failing the course? Shouldn’t the Commission start with this data?

Does the state provide a Regents error matrix; the most common incorrect answers in order to guide instruction? 

Hopefully the Commission will control the process ……

Next blog:  other Regents options

One response to “Advice to the NYS Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures

  1. Maybe an article on the union’s craven complicity in the City’s attempt to “curtail” retirees health care. This after we (many retirees) went on several strikes called by the Union to fight for these benefits. We gave up higher pay in lieu of benefits. We even “lent” the city money, which was then repaid over 16 years: the first eight years there were no repayments, while repayments were distributed over the next 8 years. Thanks City, goodbye Union.


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