Tag Archives: graduation rates

Do NYS Graduation Measures Adequately Prepare Students for Career and/or College?

We all know that the primary purpose of high school is to keep teenagers and parents apart to reduce patricide, matricide and infanticide, that being said …

Over the past month I have blogged a number of times over the current year-long process to review graduate measures, commonly known as high school graduation requirements.

The elephant in the room, the topic that will not be discussed is equity.

Educational funding in New York State is dramatically inequitable,

Despite New York’s equalizing State aid system, there remain tremendous disparities between New York State school districts in fiscal resources available to support education. In 2015-16, approved operating expenditure per pupil ranged from $11,072 for the district at the 10th percentile to $21,135 for the district at the 90th percentile, a 91 percent difference.

 In a class of thirty students the difference between the 10th percentile and the 90th percentile of $300,000 per class!

This deeply corrupt system is embedded in state law. Most funding comes from property taxes (local budgets in the Big Five cities), the differences across the state, as described above, are enormous. The Foundation Aid formula is supposed, to the extent possible, move towards equalizing funding. The completely indecipherable formula contains a “save harmless” guarantee; no district can receive less funding, regardless of changes in enrollment. There are other “formulas” that make sure that the most political powerful sections of the state retain funding. Whatever the result of the graduation measures and final determination by the Board of Regents the dollars will continue to flow through the deeply flawed legislation.

State Senator Shelly Mayer, the chair of the Education Committee, is holding hearings on the Foundation Aid formula across the state. I will be testifying at the December 3rd hearing (I’ll post my testimony)

We frequently see the term, “college and career ready,” the word “career” is simply an add-on.

In an introduction to a new book Marc Tucker writes, “The issue of whether we have a vocational education system worth having is an existential issue. If we don’t solve it, we will have a very large proportion our young adult population either without jobs or with jobs that pay next to nothing or all of the above.”

The book, “Vocational Education and Training for a Global Economy: Lessons from Four Countries In-Depth Case Studies Show Different Approaches to Preparing Young People for an Increasingly Complex Economy.”  explores vocational education in four nations We divide academic, and what we call “career and technical education,” aka vocational education in two discrete types of education, one for the elite and the other for the non-academic. The report abjures,

A first-rate primary and secondary education system that provides a strong academic foundation for all students, whether they want to pursue a primarily academic education or a more applied form of technical education;

A forward-looking, constantly adapting, skills standards system that assures employers that prospective employees have the knowledge and skills they are looking for, focuses the curriculum offered by education and training organizations on that knowledge and gives students of all ages confidence that, if they invest in the knowledge and skills on offer, they will be rewarded in the labor market by the employers;

 Work-based learning that provides opportunities for students to acquire strong, transferrable technical and social skills of the kind spelled out in the skills standards in places that are like those in which they are seeking employment

 While vocational education (CTE) in New York State and the rest of the nation is a lesser alternative to college tracks; in e rest of the world it is an equal pathway. In many of the European Union (EU) nations 50% of students are in what the European call Vocational Education Training (VET), (See detailed report).  A crucial part of the EU VET programs are apprenticeships,  in place by EU regulation and agreements with major employers. Schools in our states and nation scramble to find apprenticeships.

At the community college level completion rates are appalling,

… the National Center for Education Statistics shows that only 13 percent of community college students graduate in two years. Within three years, approximately 22 percent of students graduate, and within four years, the rate stands at 28 percent.

 Are secondary schools adequately preparing students?  Why is it necessary for students entering community colleges to take non-credit class in English, Mathematics and Writing?  Or, are life circumstances for students in poverty so crushing that continuing in school is not an option.

… life circumstances for these demographics, including financial constraints, transportation and child care needs, can hinder goals to finish the educational process and obtain a degree in a traditional timeframe. Therefore, many of the students who show up in reports as “dropouts” did not leave school because they wanted to; rather, they were compelled to by some uncontrollable life event

On the brighter side the CUNY ASAP program is innovative and targeted to the needs of students,

CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) helps students earn associate degrees within three years by providing a range of financial, academic, and personal supports including comprehensive and personalized advisement, career counseling, tutoring, waivers for tuition and mandatory fees, MTA MetroCards, and additional financial assistance to defray the cost of textbooks.

ASAP also offers special class scheduling options to ensure that ASAP students get the classes they need, are in classes with other ASAP students, and attend classes in convenient blocks of time to accommodate their work schedules. As students approach graduation, they receive special supports to help them transfer to 4-year colleges or transition into the workforce, depending on their goals.

 The ASAP program has been closely followed with external evaluations.

  • There are large and significant differences between ASAP and comparison group students in terms of retention, movement through developmental course work, credit accumulation, and graduation rates. ASAP’s current cross-cohort three-year graduation rate is 53% vs. 23% for comparison group students.
  • Students who start ASAP with developmental needs also graduate at high rates: After three years, 48% of ASAP students with developmental needs graduated vs. 21% of comparison group students with developmental needs.
  • Students from underrepresented groups appear to see even greater benefits from ASAP than other students.
  • Most importantly, ASAP students graduate at more than double the rates of non-ASAP students.

 Are the core questions graduation rates and continuing Regents Exams, or should it include the structure of secondary schools and the supports available to students?

The New York State six-year graduation rate is 84.4% and has continued to edge upward; however the increasing graduation rates should not be the goal of the graduation measures year-long process. Are we pushing kids out of high schools, with diplomas, who are not prepared for college or work?

The graduation measure exploration is an opportunity to take a dive, let’s hope there’s water in the pool.

New York State Graduation Rates: Are We Sacrificing Student Achievement to Increase Graduation Rates?

A couple of years ago I was invited to a meeting of math teachers in a high school a few days after the Common Core Algebra 1 Regents exam. The teachers had graded the exam and constructed an error matrix, the most common incorrect answers. The teachers were examining their lesson plans and discussing how they could change their lesson plans to address the student errors. They were taking ownership of their practice. Too often parents, supervisors and teachers blame the exam or blame the students: the test was “bad,” the kids didn’t pay attention or study hard enough.

Rising graduation rates, like a rising stock market makes everybody happy, at least for a few moments.

Last week, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released high school graduation rates for the 2012 cohort, students who entered 9th grade in 2012. The overall graduation rate increased to 79.4 percent, up 1.3 percentage points from 78.1 percent for the 2011 cohort. The 2012 cohort graduation rate is more than 12 percentage points higher than it was a decade earlier, when the 2002 cohort graduation rate was 67.2 percent.

State Ed has been nibbling away at graduation requirements for a decade. About ten years ago the State reduced the Comprehensive English Regents from two days to one – passing rates jumped 20%. The Global Studies Regents which covers work taught during the 9th and 10th will only cover the 10th grade in 2018. Students with disabilities can receive a local diploma with grades of 55, instead of 65 on regents exams, and in some circumstances a grade of 45 (See regulation here)

The State has also created Multiple Pathways in the 4 + 1 plan – students are required to pass four regents and an alternative assessment (See detailed explanation of Multiple Pathways here) instead of five regents exams.

In spite of the new Multiple Pathways parents of students with disabilities continue to strongly criticize the Regents and the State for removing the Regents Competency Test (RCT), a 10th grade level test that was available in lieu of the Regents. A majority of the students in the state graduated through the RCT and received a local diploma. At a forum on Long Island over 200 parents spoke passionately about the inadequacy of the current diploma options,

… on Feb. 7. Roughly 50 parents, teachers and advocates spoke, saying that the state does not offer the necessary testing options to ensure that young people with a variety of learning challenges can graduate from high school on time.

Emotions ran high throughout the evening and peaked when Ava Corbett, 14, of Plainview, took the microphone. She struggled to speak at first, but eventually got her words out.

Ava talked about how, as a special-needs student, her school performance plummeted after she entered high school. She started failing tests, hitting herself and fighting with her mother more often.

Her mother, Jessica, took over and continued the emotional appeal, her voice quivering with rage as she accused the members of the panel of perpetrating a “crime” against a generation of children.

There are no national standards for the type of test required for graduation from high school and the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states even wider authority. Many states require the PARCC or Smarter Balance test, others the SAT or the ACT, others state-designed tests; however, very few states require exit exams. The feds require tests in English, Math and Science; however, tests are used for accountability purposes, not graduation requirements. (See state by state requirements here). New York State is one of the few states that has tests, the Regents exams, that are used both for accountability and high school graduation; the Regents exams are exit exams.

If you’re interested, check out recent New York State Regents exams:

January, 2017 Global Studies Regents: http://www.nysedregents.org/GlobalHistoryGeography/117/glhg12017-examw.pdf

June, 2016, Comprehensive English Regents:: http://www.nysedregents.org/comprehensiveenglish/616/engl62016-exam.pdf

January 2017, Algebra 1 (Common Core) Regents: http://www.nysedregents.org/algebraone/117/algone12017-exam.pdf

The Regents Examination have a long history in New York State,

The first high school examinations were held in June 1878. About one hundred institutions participated. The five studies examined on that first occasion were algebra, American history, elementary Latin, natural philosophy, and physical geography.

At one time a Regents was offered in “moral philosophy,” maybe we should reinstitute.  In the 1930’s students with the highest average Regents scores received scholarships. In the 1950’s the State offered a separate Regents Scholarship Test to all students in the state. In the 1990’s, after a few years of debate, the Regents began the phaseout of the multiple diplomas. The State offered Regents, Local, Commercial, Vocational and General diplomas. Passing grades on the Regents exams were reduced to 55 and the grade of 65 was slowly phased in. The “backup,” the Regents Competency Test was phased out, the State only offered a Regents diploma. As described above the State has created a safety net for students with disabilities and created alternative pathways.

Do the feds require an exit examination? Can New York State abandon or change the Regents Exam process?

No, the feds do not require an exit exam,  the State has almost total discretion over graduation requirements; however, on the NAEP test New York State falls into the lower percentiles. (41st on the 2015 4th grade math and 34th on 8th grade math), Massachusetts and Minnesota are at the top, nationally. While the graduation rate in New York State has been inching up in NAEP rankings among states New York has remained in the lower half.

While the State has tons of data, “visual data point” and a detailed Power Point of Graduation Rates, the State has failed to take ownership of the results, as the teachers in the school referenced above did.

Who are the students who fail to graduate? and, Why do they fail to graduate?

We know the student by race, ethnicity, gender, geography, by general ed, special education and English language learners, we don’t know why students fail to graduate.

* How many students fail to graduate, or drop out, are chronically absent (absent more than 20% of the time)?  The single unquestioning data point is attendance, students who are excessively absent fail to graduate in staggering numbers. Why are student’s absent?  and, what are schools/school districts doing to get the students in school on a regular basis?  Does the State provide a template for school districts to follow before removing a student from a cohort? (See New York City discharge regulations here)

* How many students pass three or four Regents, not five, and, what exams do they fail? How many of these students are SWDs and ELLs?  How many students fail to graduate because they fail subjects? Once again, who are they? How many dropouts are SIFE? (Students with Interrupted Formal Education)? ELLs entering school in the middle and high school years may not have time to acquire the skills required to pass regents exams.

* How many general education students attend school regularly, pass subjects, and can’t pass five Regents exams?

Based on the data, above, what policies can we institute?

In spite of the fact that New York State is at the top of the nation in per capita student spendin, the disparity among districts also leads the nation. We are a state of “have” and “have-not” districts. Graduation rates parallel funding, clearly we should continue to advocate for ending the funding disparity gap.

The parents at the Long Island forum were  angry, they’re children probably would not graduate. Should we lower Regents pass grades even more for SWDs? and ELLs?  Should we re-create another exam solely for SWDs and ELLs?  Will the result be increasing graduation rates, and, decreasing NAEP scores?

Or, should we follow the path of Massachusetts,

Massachusetts is widely seen as having the best school system in the country: Just 2 percent of its high-schoolers drop out, for example, and its students’ math and reading scores rank No. 1 nationally. It even performs toward the top on international education indices …     If the Bay State were a country, its students would rank ninth in the world in math. It ranks second only to Singapore in eighth-grade science.

[A former commissioner described changes] ‘…pay attention to early childhood education, give principals more freedom and ramp up teacher training … ‘”

The Education Reform Act of 1993 set the path and for twenty-five years Massachusetts has followed the same path. The road was rocky, early in the plan parents boycotted the tests, the curriculum was set at a high level and is taught consistently across the state and tested by a state designed test. The state has pumped considerable funding into the schools through an equitable funding formula that recognizes poverty..

kids should be held accountable to very high standards and we should test to make sure they meet those standards,” David Driscoll, the education commissioner from 1988 to 2007, said in an interview. “This became the basis of the Education Reform Act of 1993.”

That legislation established high academic standards with curriculum guidelines, developed tests to measure whether students were meeting the standards, tied high school graduation to a test and set a higher bar for teachers. Massachusetts also became one of the first states to look at whether the least privileged — minority students, low-income students and special education students — were meeting the grade.

Read a detailed discussion of the Massachusetts Miracle here.

You cannot roll back the clock twenty-five years, the Regents did establish the single Regents diploma however, New York State continued to stumble in the lower half of states. Tests are under attack in the state, from the Opt Out parents as well as some elected officials.

The Regents are faced with a daunting task: should they continue to find alternative pathways, basically satisfying parents and elected and also increasing graduation rates, or, attempt to emulate Massachusetts? Are higher graduation rates a reasonable tradeoff for lower NAEP scores?

Or, can New York State create it’s own path to higher graduation rates and higher academic achievement for all students?