In the fall of 2019 I attended a regional session of the NYSED Graduation Measures initiative. I sat at a table with a superintendent, a few parents, a teacher and a student and “discussed” a number of questions along with a few hundred other participants. Three years later the process is moving forward, a “blue ribbon commission” is about to begin meeting with a “recommendation” due sometime in the future. The debate, for want of another term, centers on the Regents Examinations, there has been no discussion of “credits” or “seat time” or “course offerings” up to now.
Has the State raised the “right” questions? Will this lengthy process improve education in the state and benefit students in a rapidly changing world?
More in my next blog
The current Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the subsequent federal regulations require computing graduation rates as well as requiring tests and interventions emanating from the results of the tests. Every state is trying to pump up graduation rates, very little talk re the quality of the diploma
The fifty states have different graduation requirements and ESSA require tests in grade 10-12, only a few require “passing” exit exams. NYS is one of the few states that allows opt outs by parents, prior to COVID about 20% of parents opted out their children, ESSA requires 95% school/school district participation rates for all students and all subgroups, NYS has the lowest participation rates in the nation, the feds have required “action plans” from below 95% participation rate states and, thus far have taken no punitive actions. See report here.
ESSA Requirements Simplified,
* States are required to test students in reading or language arts and math annually in grades 3-8 and once in grades 10-12, and in science once in each of the following grade spans: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
* ESSA allows for the development and dissemination of “high-quality performance-based assessments” through a seven-state pilot program. Under this program, states can develop and implement innovative assessments. NYS choose not to participate in the pilot program.
• While assessments for elementary schools must be the same for all public school students statewide, states may also choose to offer a “nationally recognized local assessment at the high school level” (SAT, ACT or Smarter Balance, for example) as long as assessments are “reliable, valid and comparable.” New York State uses the Regents Exams and Massachusetts the MCAS
Five states have approved federal waivers: North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
New York is in the early stages of developing a “high quality performance-based assessment” project using the acronym PLAN. http://www.nysed.gov/plan-pilot
The Performance-Based Learning and Assessment Networks (PLAN) Pilot is exploring the potential for New York educational assessment strategy to be reimagined in a way that purposefully fosters high-quality instructional opportunities, provides authentic measures of deeper learning and better prepares students for college and the workplace.
The PLAN website explains the goals and lays out the “phases of work” here.
What we have are two parallel initiatives with the goal of merging sometime down the road. The Graduation Measures initiative will present recommendations to the public next spring, summer or fall, all depending on the progress of the Blue Ribbon Commission and the crafting of recommendations by the Board of Regent.
… the 64 member Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures will undertake a thoughtful and inclusive process to explore what a New York State high school diploma means and what it should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for all New York State children …
The Blue Ribbon Commission will develop recommendations to the Board of Regents on what measures of learning and achievement could better serve New York’s diverse student population as indicators of what they know and their readiness for college, career, and civic life.
The PLAN pilot is in early stages, schools/districts will apply, training, putting the elements of the plan together, an application to the US Department of Education, probably a few years away.
Where is the State headed?
The Board of Regents (BoR) can abandon the current Regents Exams and switch to another “nationally recognized” assessment, there is no “passing grade,” the student receives a scale score..
The BoR can continue offering the Regents Exams and decouple from graduation requirements, graduation would be determined by accumulating the requisite number of credits. Would the 95% participation rate apply? Probably? Can kids opt out of decoupled Regents Exams? Can the feds sanction the state if the “participation rate” is not achieved?
The BoR could be granted an “innovative assessment” waiver, the state has a couple of years to go, and, the “innovative assessment” waiver may be more onerous than the current tests.
Unfortunately I fear we may be heading down a dark corridor and the light might be an on-coming stumbling school system