The Commissioner and the Board of Regents have been totally focused on writing a new school accountability plan under the provisions of the new Every School Succeeds Act (ESSA). Hopefully the plan will be more equitable, the plan will identify the Title 1 schools in the lowest five percent as defined by the metrics in the state plan.
Will the plan impact teaching and learning? Will we be identifying the same schools we would have identified under the prior law, No Child Left Behind?
While I am hopeful that the new plan will be an improvement larger questions emerge: How do we define “college and career ready?” Do our current graduation requirements, courses and assessments, i. e., regents exams, lead to college/career readiness?
David Conley, “Four Keys to College and Career Readiness” is the national expert and has written extensively.
New York State uses a narrow definition: The City University (CUNY) defines college and career readiness as grades of 75 on the Algebra 1 Regents and 80 on the English Regents. State Ed, under the leadership of acting commissioner Ken Wagner was planning to move to aspirational regents grades: five “levels” of achievement.
Level 5: Exceeds Common Core expectations
Level 4: Meets Common Core expectations
Level 3: Partially meets Common Core expectations … comparable to students who pass current Regents exams with a score of 65
Level 2: (Safety Net) Partially meets Common Core expectations (required for local diploma purposes), expect comparable percentages of students who pass current Regents exams with a score of 55.
Level 1: Does not demonstrate Knowledge and Skills.
These “levels” would be scale scores, the test would undergo psychometric massage to determine the level.
The Commissioner, quietly, backed away from the plan to move from the current 0-100 grading system with 65 passing to aspirational scale score levels.
An underlying issue: courses and assessment exams.
The high school graduation requirements are below: 22 units (44 one-term courses) click on the link for a more detailed explanation.
- English, four units of commencement level credit;
- social studies, four units of credit … ;
- science, three units of credit of commencement level science, at least one course shall be life sciences and at least one in the physical sciences, the third may be either life sciences or physical sciences;
- mathematics, three units of credit of mathematics, which shall be at a more advanced level than grade eight, shall meet commencement level learning standards as determined by the commissioner, provided that no more than two credits shall be earned for any Integrated Algebra, Geometry, or Algebra 2 and Trigonometry commencement level mathematics course;
- visual arts and/or music, dance, or theatre, one unit of credit; and
- health education, one-half unit of credit in accordance with the requirements set forth in section 135.3(c) of this Title. Learning standards in the area of parenting shall be attained through either the health or family and consumer sciences programs or a separate course.
In addition to the courses students must pass exit exams – the Regents Exams.
Mathematics (usually Algebra 1)
Science (usually Living Environment)
American History and Government (usually at the end of the Junior year)
Global History and Geography (currently covers two years (9th and 10th grades) of work, in June 2018 the exam will only cover 10th grade work)
Check here for a detailed description and alternative pathways
Let’s ask some essential questions:
* Should we continue to “nibble around edges,” namely, making it incrementally easier to graduate, or, address the essential questions?
Should we adopt a state-wide core curriculum with required readings? The current EngageNY curriculum modules are not required and the state tests are not based on a curriculum, they are based on a set of standards. Should state tests be curriculum and standards based?
Should instruction be grade level regardless of the level of the students? Some argue that by teaching to the level of the kids we are assuring that kids will never reach grade level or higher?
There are school and grade organizational models that are far more instructionally impactful than others – is it the role of the state to “strongly encourage” evidence-based grade/school organizational/instructional models?
Should coding and computer science be part of school curriculum and graduation requirements? New York City has announced a Computer Science for All initiative,
Through an unprecedented public-private partnership, by 2025, all NYC public school students will receive meaningful, high‐quality Computer Science (CS) education at each school level: elementary, middle, and high school. Over the next 10 years, the DOE will train nearly 5,000 teachers who will bring CS education to the City’s ~1.1 million public school students.
Hunter College made a presentation at the last Regents Meeting asking the State to approve a new teacher certification area: Teacher of Computer Science. – Grades 9 – 12. (Read proposal here).
Over 18 million students have code.org accounts – has New York State adopted code.org? Has/should the state add computer science to the state curriculum? State graduation requirements?
And, the elephant in the room: moving from pencil and paper (or computer screen) examinations to performance task and portfolio/roundtable assessments, aka, authentic assessments. Are alternative assessments evidence-based assessments, or, the “softening” of assessments?
A cluster of New York City high schools have been granted waivers from Regents exams for twenty years, although the number of schools and the conditions of the waivers have changed (see the Performance Based Assessment Consortium here).
The state of Vermont spent years in the nineties trying to create a state-wide portfolio system that was eventually abandoned primarily due to the absence of inter-rater reliability (Check discussions here and here); Vermont is once again making an effort to move to classroom-based authentic assessments, read here.
The California Performance Assessment Consortium (CBAC) has created a bank of assessments and is working with a wide cohort of schools. Watch a live U-Tube of an in depth discussion of the program here, including benchmarks and student work, the site of excellent!!
I am not advocating for any specific change – I am advocating for an investigation, moving beyond “playing” with graduation/testing requirements and exploring taking a deep dive into the base questions:
* Graduation requirements, are we requiring the “right” courses, and
* Should the assessments reflect the curriculum as well as the standards, and
* Are authentic assessments, namely performance tasks and portfolios, “reliable” indicators of the quality of student work, and, if so, should we be moving forward with pilots?
Completing the ESSA school accountability plan is a beginning, a baby step, self-reflection is at the heart of effective teaching, and, effective leadership.
If we’re not satisfied with where we are now how we can we make the system better?