Category Archives: English Language Learners

Graduation Rates: Why Do Kids Drop Out of School? Fail Courses? Fail Regents? How Can We Increase Graduation Rates Without Ruses?

With fanfare and some backslapping the New York State Education Department released graduation data for the 2011 cohort – students entering the ninth grade in the 2011-2012 school year.

The overall graduation rate for the 2011 cohort increased to 78.1 percent, up 1.7 percentage points from 76.4 percent for the 2010 cohort.

Once a student registers in a school, usually that means moving from the eighth to the ninth grade, the student “belongs” to the high school. The student remains in the cohort until they graduate, move on to another school or dropout.  The SED presser reports that seven percent of the cohort has dropped out and “… of those who dropped out, 62 percent were Black or Hispanic; 64 percent came from economically disadvantaged homes; and 58 percent were male.” Fifteen percent of the students neither graduated nor dropped out, they either failed to pass the requisite courses, failed to pass five regents exams (with the safety net, if eligible) or a combination of both and are currently in their fifth year of high school (or, failed to report to school this year).

Graduation rates can be increased by better data management that has nothing to do with the school instructional program. For a number of years I worked on a team that assisted new, small high schools, and succeeded in increasing graduation rates. Who were the “long term absences” and where did they go?  Were they enrolled in another school and not removed from the previous school register?  Has the school attempted to track down the student?  Form letters and phone calls do not suffice: a counselor, social worker or attendance teacher also has to become a detective. If the student moved back to South Carolina in what school is the student enrolled – can we ask the South Carolina school for an enrollment document? Does school personnel have the language skills to communicate with family and friends? How many of the dropouts are English language learners, how many Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) are in the dropout cohort?  Does school staff have the computer skills to search databases?  Unfortunately low functioning schools are low functioning in multiple domains: high failure rates, low attendance, and high suspension rates and poor data management. The SED should provide a guide to tracking down dropouts – turning “bad” discharges to “good” discharges.

It’s crucial to disaggregate the remaining fifteen percent – the students who neither graduate in four years nor dropped out: Who are they?

* English language learners

Let’s disaggregate the ELLs, “Ever” Ls, students who been Ls for many years, are the NYSSLAT scores increasing?  Is the student making progress towards graduating in a fifth or sixth year of high school?

Is the L student overage?  Poor attendance?  Is it likely that without proper guidance and support the student will dropout?

Does the student have a path to graduation?  Making progress both in passing courses and passing regents?

* Special Education

How many students are in Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms and how many students in self-contained classrooms? Is there a difference in course and regents passing rates?  And, a core question: how many special education students pass courses and fail regents exams and which regents exam is the most common failure?

Black, Hispanic and Disadvantaged

Are there common denominators?  High absence rates? High suspension rates? Overage?  Are there specific courses and regents exams that are more commonly failed?

If the data is useful, if we expect schools to utilize data schools must adopt a culture, a culture that respects the use of data to drive the construction of school polices. New Visions for Public Schools described the process in an excellent report:  Navigating the Data Ecosystem: A Case Study of the Adoption of a School Data Management System in New York City.

Culture drives practice. A school can promote a culture of inquiry only if there are systems in place to support regular analysis of student data …  teachers have cited the lack of time for data analysis as a major barrier to using data systems, and in some cases they reported feeling they must choose between data-driven work and their teaching. Effective data use within the context of inquiry requires that time be made available to teacher teams specifically for this activity …  schools should make this structured collaborative time a priority, ideally happening a few times each week, depending on individual school needs.

Why haven’t more schools adopted cultures that promote inquiry that promotes “structured collaborative time?”  Eric Nadelstern, in the January 13, 2016 Hechinger Report  suggests,

Devolve responsibility, resources and authority to schools. Centralizing decision making simply lets principals and teachers off the hook for student performance.

Our goal is to create schools with the ability take responsibility; however, Nadelstern’s answer, endlessly close and create new schools is a chaotic solution and chaos is not what students and teachers need.

The commissioner proposes a number of options that are patches,

Department proposed to the Board new options that would provide students with additional opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in order to earn a diploma. These proposals include widening the score range for any students who wish to appeal their Regents Exam result; establishing a graduation pathway in Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS); and the creation of a project-based assessment for students who pass coursework required for a diploma but who have not passed required Regents Exams. These new options are intended to give all students—especially those with disabilities, English language learners (ELL), and students at risk of dropping out—additional ways of earning a diploma while continuing to measure them against the State’s rigorous standards.

Only about 50 percent of students with disabilities in the 2011 cohort graduated within four years. Graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students continue to lag behind those of their White peers. In the 2011 cohort, about 88 percent of White students graduated in June 2015, but only 65 percent of Black and Hispanic students did.

Will these proposals raise graduation rates and will they also recreate a tracking system?

Twenty years ago the Regents, after years of discussion, began the phase-out of the Regent Competency Test (RCT) driven local diploma. The RCT was a low level test – about ninth grade level, that was a common pathway to graduation.  I taught in a New York City high school with an excellent reputation, and, only about 25% of the senior cohort earned a regents diploma. In high poverty schools regent diplomas were rare. Will the commissioner’s proposal return us to the tracking of twenty years ago?

The new reauthorized law, ESSA, allows states to seek waivers, and, New Hampshire is in year two of a waiver that is exploring performance tasks in lieu of standardized tests.  New York State should begin exploring their own waiver; there are forty high schools that have had an approved waiver  for twenty years, utilizing a student portfolio-roundtable system in lieu of regents exams.

The time is ripe for the Regents and the State Education Department to begin a process – how can we assess pupil performance without the burden of rigid standardized tests.

Windows Open, Windows Close: Will New York State Move Away from Punitive Testing to a Performance Task Model? From Rating Teachers to Facilitating Teacher Growth?

New York State has a rare window, for the next four years student scores on standardized tests  cannot be used to assess teacher performance.

Hopefully the window will be used to address the two crucial issues:

* Formative and Summative Teacher Assessment: How do improve and assess teacher performance?

* Student Assessment: How do we use performance tasks to assess student performance instead of the current standardized tests?

The core of teacher preparation programs is the student teaching experience – how effective is the student teaching experience?  How effective are the cooperating teachers in “teaching” classroom skills? We don’t know. We do know that Urban Residency  programs – teachers spend a year in a salaried internship – with a carefully selected mentor teacher while earning a Master’s Degree from a local university are highly effective.  The programs are expensive, usually federally or state-funded with high teacher retention rates.

In-service teachers are observed three, four or five times a year by their supervisor using a rubric – in New York City, the Danielson Frameworks.  One of the questions: Inter-rater reliability – the degree of agreement among raters:  how much homogeneity, or consensus, is there in the ratings given by evaluator?  The answer is, not much. Teachers in high poverty, at-risk schools receive lower rating than teachers in high achieving, high wealth schools.  In New York City superintendents run principal meetings in which the principals, in teams, observe the same classes and discuss how they would rate the lesson; however, these meeting do not cross district lines. Sadly, there is no discussion of the post observation conference – the essence of the process. Ironically Danielson’s other book,  Talk About Teaching: Leading Professional Conversations (2015), is rarely discussed. The teacher observation process, in too many schools, is a compliance problem for principal. The dialogue concerning the day-to-day practice of a teacher is not at the core of the observation process.

Instead of discussing  whether the lesson of an “H” or an “E” (New York State requires a rating of Highly Effective, Effective, Developing or Ineffective, referred to as HEDI) the discussion should center on the “professional conversations.”

At a recent union meeting a delegate asked whether a principal could order a teacher to give up a preparation, pay the teacher for the lost prep, to observe another teacher.   Mindless.

Facilitated common planning time can lead to intervisitations to a school culture of “talk about teaching.”  “Ordering” teachers to collaborate is insanity.

A note about research: Too much research falls into the advocacy research category – the organization conducting the research does not enter the field with clean hands. Last week, in an essay  in the Brookings Brief, Stuart Butler, an economist with long experience working at the conservative Heritage Foundation lauds two studies, one supporting the “small high schools of choice” (SSC) initiative in New York City and the other a study of 6,000 charter schools. Both studies ignore facts that cast doubt on the validity of the research. While SSC do have higher graduation rates how many kids earned credits by way of highly questionable credit recovery?  What was the impact of teachers marking papers of students they taught?   The charter school research ignores “push out” rates in charter schools, the lower percentages of students with disabilities enrolled as well as the absence of English language learners.

Howard Wainer in Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies (2011) warns us that theory is not evidence – click on the site  – Wainer gives an excellent discussion of the flaws in creating education policy.

We must move from counting the number of observations to creating cultures that “talk about teaching,” and, we have to be wary about advocacy research.

Can we use performance tasks as an alternative to standardized testing?

It may take a while for the dust to settle and a new vision for accountability to emerge, [Columbia professor] Jeff Henig  said; but one blueprint for the future may be the past, specifically, the years just before the passage of the NCLB law, which saw a real range of approaches to accountability.

“Looking back to pre-NCLB, we see what we could anticipate as a likely outcome in the future, which is considerable variation in terms of how [states] use greater authority and discretion. Some states were leaders and innovators, some were laggards,” he said. “They vary in terms of political dynamics, vary in terms of bureaucratic capacity … and in terms of what they value.” 

Top-down solutions to education are commonplace – purchasing some package that is expected to be used in every classroom in the district. After a couple of years the superintendent changes, the costs are too high, the “magic bullet’ becomes a dud.  I have served on many Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) teams, and, in extremely low functioning schools I invariably walked into a wonderful classroom. Unfortunately the school leadership ignored the excellence of the outlier. In high poverty, low performing school districts there are also outliers, schools that appear to have “figured it out.”  In a low performing school that was being phased out a new principal converted a school from chaos, numerous suspensions every week to order – no suspensions. Since it was a phase-out school the powers that be ignored the success. What was he doing differently? No one seemed interested.

With the passage of the new ESSA law policy devolves to the states, and, we can expect to see a wide variety of approaches.

New Hampshire is the only state with a pilot program approved by the US Ed Department in which performance tasks replace standardized tests to assess student performance.  A caveat: attempts to adopt programs from one state to another frequently stumble.

There’s a lot of potential in the approaches getting a test run in New Hampshire and California, Deborah S. Delisle, the executive director of ASCD, other places need to know that neither state’s approach could be replicated overnight.

“These systems took a significant amount of thinking, analysis, and work at the local level… It is easy to be tempted to adopt another state’s or district’s pilot; however, processes are not necessarily transferable, and they need to be analyzed in terms of the local schools’ needs and goals for their students.”

New Hampshire is in the second year of a pilot program, four school districts in the first year and an additional four this year.  The New Hampshire Department of Education describes the program,

The … system, a pilot currently being implemented in New Hampshire, is designed to foster deeper learning on the part of students than is capable under current systems. A competency-based system relies on a well-articulated set of learning targets that helps connect content standards and critical skills leading to proficiency. Such a system requires carefully following student progress and ensures that students have mastered key content and skills before moving to the next logical set of knowledge and skills along locally-defined learning paths This requires timely assessments linked closely with curriculum and instruction.

… a rich system of local and common (across multiple districts) assessments that support deeper learning, as well as allow students to demonstrate their competency through multiple performance assessment measures in a variety of contexts. Performance assessments are multi-step assignments with clear criteria, expectations and processes which measure how well a student transfers knowledge and applies complex skills to create or refine an original product and/or solution.

Read a detailed description of the NH DOE program here: http://education.nh.gov/assessment-systems/documents/pilot-overview.pdf

The New Hampshire pilot is rigorous, extremely rigorous, and in the first year the students in the control group, the students who took the Smarter Balance standardized tests did slightly better than the students involved in the pilot.

Windows open windows close, New York State has four years to explore how to move from a teacher assessment compliance model to a teacher competence growth model.

In addition, by aligning a teacher growth model to a performance task model in lieu of a standardized testing model the state has an opportunity to change a culture.

I am not advocating for the New Hampshire plan or any specific plan, under the new federal law all states have an opportunity to create a model at the local level.

For example, New York State  can move away from a “one size fits all” regents diploma model to a true multiple pathways diploma. If a student cannot pass five regents exams, in spite of multiple attempts, in spite of their handicapping condition or language disability, currently, they are a dropout.   We should consider a range of pathways with a type of diploma for each pathway, and, performance tasks in addition to regents exams, requires exploration.

Let’s not shut the window, we have a unique opportunity.

Can We Test Prospective Teachers to Greatness? We Are Chasing Away, Not Recruiting the “Best and the Brightest” Future Teachers.

From the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) to A Nation at Risk (1983) to No Child Left Behind (2002) think tanks, universities and legislatures have been jousting over how to eliminate the racial academic achievement gap. Students of color have lower scores on tests, have lower graduation rates, higher incarceration rates and earn far fewer dollars throughout their lives.

No Children Left Behind (NCLB) saw the “stick” as the answer; annual transparent testing in grades 3 – 8, the setting of goals for each school and a range of interventions leading to school closings if schools failed to reach the goals. What was heralded as the answer to “failing” schools is yet another discredited bad idea.

The Obama administration added the carrot to the stick: dangling over four billion dollars for states who committed to implement a range of approaches: choice, meaning charter schools as an alternative to public schools, full implementation of the Common Core, Common Core testing and a teacher evaluation system based on student growth scores. When the grant ended in June New York State confronted a bitter reality, parents opting out of the testing system, angry and frustrated teachers and politicians scrambling to mollify the disillusioned public; nirvana had not been achieved,

One of ideas spinning out of academia and the US Department of Education is based on what appears to be a sensible principle: create exceptional teachers who will erase the achievement gap. The Rand Corporation  writes,

When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.

Non-school factors are very important; however, we cannot control these factors.

Some research suggests that, compared with teachers, individual and family characteristics may have four to eight times the impact on student achievement. But policy discussions focus on teachers because it is arguably easier for public policy to improve teaching than to change students’ personal characteristics or family circumstances. Effective teaching has the potential to help level the playing field.

And, it is difficult to predict teacher effectiveness through pre-service factors.

Despite common perceptions, effective teachers cannot reliably be identified based on where they went to school, whether they’re licensed, or (after the first few years) how long they’ve taught. The best way to assess teachers’ effectiveness is to look at their on-the-job performance, including what they do in the classroom and how much progress their students make on achievement tests.

Have no fear says Arne Duncan and John King, why don’t we raise the bar for prospective teachers, only accept candidates with 3.0 GPAs or higher, and, let’s give them a range of required tests before we actually license the candidates.

* The exams plus study guides cost $1,000

* the edTPA, a Stanford-Pearson product requires the candidate to produce a video of a lesson with an accompanying portfolio.

* the Academic Literary Skills Test, ALST,

This test consists of selected-response items, followed by focused constructed-response items and an extended writing assignment based on the critical analysis of authentic texts and graphic representations of information addressing the same topic. Each item requires the analysis of complex literary or informational texts.

* the Educating All Students test (EAS) consists of selected-response (multiple-choice) questions and three constructed-response assignments dealing with diverse populations, English language learners and Students with Disabilities.

* the Content Specialty Test  (CST) in Childhood Grades 1-6 contains 120  multiple choice questions in Literacy, English Language Arts, Mathematics and Arts and Science, over five and a half hours of testing time.

The State Education Department has set cut scores for each test, without any evidence that the cut levels produce more effective teachers: Afro-American and test takers whose native language is other than English have significantly lower grades. Schools of Education have turned into test prep mills; especially since the State Department of Education publicly released the scores with a “stick,” schools with lower student scores are threatened with “corrective action,” aka closing. Is there any evidence that the test tests actually sort prospective teachers by ability?  The answer is no.

New York City and New York State are crafting initiatives to attract teachers of color, and, the exams exclude significant numbers of teachers of color. Colleges that attract larger numbers of teacher of color and other than English native speakers are faced with sanctions. The initial result is far fewer applicants to schools of education across the state.

The Higher Education Committee of the Board of Regents is sponsoring and Open Forum to allow college staff and students to explore the impact of the tests.

The forum will be held at St Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn 11201 at 6 PM on Monday, December 7th.

Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (2004)  writes,

Teaching is both an art and a science. Pedagogical skills and content knowledge can be taught, but beyond these, the greatest teaching requires an instinctive affinity for the role. the greater the teachers, the more art and the less science is involved. This is true of all fields. Most people achieve excellence through perspiration, but greatness – consistent performance in the top quintile – requires inspiration and innate skill as well. Much can be done to improve the 50th percentile teacher, but the inspiration that gets them all the way up the 90th percentile probably cannot be taught. You have it, or we don’t; if you don’t; you can still improve your teaching, but incrementally.

There may be that teaching gene.

The ill-conceived  John King  testing requirements for prospective teachers has created chaos. Colleges converted into test prep mills, colleges dissuaded from seeking students of color, prospective students deciding not to pursue teaching. Rather than filling classrooms with the “best and brightest” we are chasing the “best and brightest” away from teaching.

If you’re around tonight come by St Francis and listen to the teachers of teachers describe yet another incredibly ill-conceived initiative.

Schools seeking new teachers interview candidates, set up an opportunity to teach a model lesson, the interviews usually include colleagues, and, if hired new teachers must work four years as an at-will probationary employee; cutting down the pool of prospective teachers without any evidence that the required candidate testing impact student achievement is mindless.

The Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind Moves Forward in Congress: How Will It Impact New York State?

If you’ve had the stamina to watch the presidential debates which topic has not been discussed: that’s right – education. No Common Core, no testing, no teacher evaluation – nada.

Education has become a toxic topic, both ends of the education spectrum are passionate, the middle, to be perfectly honest, doesn’t understand and doesn’t care.

The Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) strongly support charter schools and test-score based teacher evaluation, the far right of the Republican Party wants to abolish the US Department of Education, including Title 1 funding.

Candidates are sticking with issues that mobilize their core supporters.

Mayor Bloomberg was the self-proclaimed education mayor; in his last term, as his fights with the teacher union accelerated his favorability rating dived,

Sol Stern, in the fall, 2013 City Journal reported,

…. New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

Across New York State 220,000 students, one in five students, opted out of the federally required grades 3-8 English and Math exams and polling clearly blames the governor for what parents see as excessive and punitive testing.

Hillary Clinton, at an AFT-sponsored forum mildly jibbed at charter schools  (They “cherry pick” students), she immediately was sharply criticized by the pro-charter crowd  – from both sides of the aisle.

Considering the acrimonious nature of the education debate it is encouraging that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind is moving forward in both houses of Congress.

This morning I watched the Senate vote overwhelmingly to move the Senate bill to conference. A year ago both houses passed reauthorization bills; however, the bills were so different that no attempt was made to reconcile the bills.

Over the next few days House and Senate conference members will hammer out a bill incorporating the bills from both houses.

The path has been long and complex – the committee chairs in both houses and both parties have to craft bills that address the needs/philosophies/criticisms of a majority of the 435 members of the House and 60 members in the Senate. (Senate rules require 60 votes to advance a vote on the underlying bill).

The House is ruled by the majority, the Republican side. The Republicans control the agenda, the flow of bills. The complexity in the House is not the opposing party, the Democrats; the problem is within the Republican Party; the original House bill only passed by five votes. The Freedom Caucus, previously known as the Tea Party, has frequently opposed their own leadership, paring away enough votes to prevent the passage of leadership bills.  A reauthorization bill must satisfy the objections of the Freedom Caucus, A Republican leader who reaches across the aisle for Democratic votes could not survive as leader.

On the Senate side there are 54 Republicans and Senate rules require 60 votes for any bill to move to the floor, bipartisan bills are required. Senators Alexander (R) and Murray (D) have worked for months to create a bill that can garner the required 60 votes in the Senate.

The leadership in both houses and on both sides of the aisle appoints members to serve on the conference committee. Over the next few days the committee will probably agree on a bill that will come to the floor of both houses in early December – of course, there are still bumps along the road.

And, of course, the President must sign the bill.

The proposal (Read detailed description here) would keep some of the NCLB law’s most-important transparency measures in place, like continued annual testing in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. And it includes some protections for perennially foundering schools and those where poor and minority kids, or students in special education, and those just learning English, are struggling.

But otherwise, states would be handed the car keys when it comes to almost everything else, including: how much tests should figure in when it comes to rating schools vs. other factors like school climate; how to fix perennially foundering schools; and how to assist schools that are doing well overall, but still struggling to help certain groups of students (like English-language learners) … [the proposal]  prohibit[s] the U.S. Secretary of Education from interfering with state prerogatives on teacher evaluation, testing, standards, school turnarounds, and more.

Bloggers and teachers have railed against any reauthorization that continues annual testing; their problem is that civil rights organizations and advocates (NAACP, Urban League, La Raza and disability organizations) all vigorously support annual testing; organizations that traditionally have worked closely with teacher organizations. They argue that annual testing presents irrefutable evidence of achievement gaps, to do away with annual tests will remove the spotlight, a spotlight that is essential to advocate for their constituencies.

The proposed law would make Race to the Top and NCLB Waivers impermissible.

Arne Duncan would be replaced by Andrew Cuomo. Or, Mary Ellen Elia.

In most states the governor appoints the state board of education. The New York State constitution vests the authority to set education policy with the Board of Regents, who are elected by the state legislature – in reality selected by the Speaker of the Assembly.  Governor Cuomo has eroded the authority of the Regents. Decision after decision emanates from the office of the governor.  An example is the appointment of the Common Core Task Force. The governor appointed a fifteen-member Task Force, scheduled “listening sessions” around the state and set a first week in December date for a preliminary report. The commissioner has released her own description of the process along with a list of possible policy changes: shorter tests, the release of more test questions, a speeder release of the scores, promises of more teacher involvement in future state tests and a move to more adaptive and online testing.

See commissioner’s report here. (The report does not comment on teacher evaluation)

The governor can ignore the recommendations of the commissioner and the commissioner can ignore the recommendations of the task force; of course, the governor can convert his recommendations to legislation.

If the reauthorization bill becomes law: how will it impact on policy in New York State?

Stay tuned …

UPDATE: The conference committee has approved a bill – see Education Week discussion here – full text will be available in a few days.

The Board of Regents Convene With a Contentious Agenda and the Ominous Shadow of the Governor

Wednesday morning the seventeen members of the Board of Regents and the newly selected commissioner will convene in the ornate Regents Room to begin the 15-16 school year. Oddly the agenda, to a large extent, has been set “across the street,” on the second floor of the Capital building, the executive offices of the governor.

Education policy for two centuries was set by the members of the regents with significant input from the commissioner. Commissioners worked their way up the ladder, from teacher to principal to superintendent to commissioner; all that changed in the last few years. David Steiner came from the university and John King had no public school experience, in fact, only limited experience in the world of charter schools. The newly selected commissioner returns us to the world of experienced educators.

In the current convoluted landscape of education the governor has effectively replaced the regents: adoption of the Common Core State Standards, a massive labyrinthine principal/teacher evaluation system, the receivership of struggling schools have been set in legislation by the governor with the regents being asked to set regulations in place.

The unpaid, un-staffed members of the regents are “elected” by a joint meeting of the NYS legislature. In reality the democrats select the members; there are far more democrats than republicans in the combined houses. In the last session the legislature dumped two of the most senior members of the regents and selected four new members (three incumbents were re-elected, there were two vacancies and two regents replaced); three former school superintendents and one nurse educator (the State Education Department is in charge of all schools, pre-k through college, all museums and libraries and the professions).

The four new members and two second-term regents members have formed a caucus to oppose the approval of the governor’s new matrix principal/teacher evaluation plan (3012-d); the debate will be lively.

The regents will approve regulations for the completely untried receivership law; if low performing schools fail to make progress, as defined in the regulations, the school may be removed from the district and placed under the supervision of a receiver who has sweeping power. (See Regents agenda here).

Not only has the governor seized control of the education agenda the feds have been the agenda-setter for all of the states. The feds require that after being in the country for one year all English Language Learners in Grades 3-8 must be tested regardless of their English language skills. The feds denied the NYS waiver request and the regents and the commissioner are asking the feds to reconsider.

The regents are forming a working group to discuss the pass/fail rates on the new Common Core Regents exams; we are currently in year three of the eight year phase-in of Common Core Regents; the grades are currently scaled to keep pass-fail rates at the same level as before the Common Core: are students making adequate progress in passing the new Regents, and, if not, how should the regents members respond?

Regent Cashin is highlighting the new testing regimen for prospective teachers who are required to pass four exams at a cost of about $1,000; the exams are timed and computer-based: are the exams accurate predictors of success? Are the high failure rates the result of selecting the wrong candidates, faulty college curriculum or simply poorly crafted exams? In an era of sharply declining enrollments in college teacher education programs the poorly designed Pearson-created exams should not be an unnecessary impediment.

While the funding of schools is the responsibility of the governor and the legislature the 2% property tax cap is resulting in drastic cuts in services in low wealth districts, of which there are several hundred located in rural districts with declining revenues. The regents can highlight and recommend changes to the “other side of the street.”

How will the regents address the large numbers of Students with Disabilities who are unable to “pass” grades 3-8 tests and unable to achieve the safety net requirements on the Regents exams? Should the regents create alternative pathways to graduation? Portfolios?

In some schools English Language learners are making progress similar to all other students while in others the majority of students are graduating at extremely low rates: Why? Higher or lower levels of instruction? Better professional development? Better designed instructional models?

Educational decisions, as the state constitution intended, should be made by the Board of Regents. Hopefully the governor will move away from his senseless policies that have antagonized parents and teachers across the state.

Far reaching education policies crafted behind closed doors by invisible staffers is not a fruitful path to better education. The two hundred thousand op-outers will grow and grow; the angry electorate will continue to grow.

Hopefully the governor will rethink his ideas and the legislature will continue to select regent members willing to challenge the governor as well as collaboratively develop approaches to address the core issues confronting children and families across the state.