Tag Archives: Regents Examinations

Regents Cancelled, Budgets Gloomy, School Re-Opening In Question, Planning for an Uncertain Future

Kudos to Chancellor Rosa, Acting Commissioner Tahoe and the members of the Board of Regents; in these chaotic and stressful times they have addressed the range of troubling questions.

The detailed, very detailed, Q & A addresses most of the questions that were swirling in the education stratosphere.

All Regents examinations scheduled for June are cancelled.

 Students, who, during the June 2020 examination period would have taken one or more Regents examinations, will be exempted from passing the assessments in order to be issued a diploma.  To qualify for the exemption, students must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • The student is currently enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and will have earned credit in such course of study by the end of the 2019-20 school year; or
  • The student is in grade 7, is enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and will have passed such course of study by the end of the 2019-20 school year; or
  • The student is currently enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and has failed to earn credit by the end of the school year. Such student returns for summer instruction to make up the failed course and earn the course credit and is subsequently granted diploma credit in August 2020; or
  • The student was previously enrolled in the course of study leading to an applicable Regents examination, has achieved course credit, and has not yet passed the associated Regents examination but intended to take the test in June 2020 to achieve a passing score.

The guidance from State Ed includes a Q & A addressing the many, many issues that were hanging loose (See here) as well as a link to submit additional questions.

Any additional questions about the exemptions from examination requirements or the effect of such exemptions on student qualification for a diploma should be directed to emscgradreq@nysed.gov.

While Board of Regents/State Ed has clarified many of the outstanding issues the elephants in the room are dollars. As the budget dance was prancing towards the April 1 deadline the apocalypse descended. The process in New York State is driven by the Governor (See an earlier blog for an explanation of the arcane process). The Board of Regents asked for a $2 billion increase, the Governor offered $800 million, the final enacted budget – $0 – the same budget as last year, and, the Governor will have the authority to increase or decrease the budget, the legislature will have 10 days to turn down the Governor’s actions, highly unlikely.

The New York City budgeting process is beginning, the City Council and the Mayor usually agree on the budget by mid-June.

The Mayor released his proposal with $221 million in education reductions; the largest cut will directly impact school budgets.

The biggest single cut to the education department’s budget will take effect next fiscal year: $100 million will come out of the “fair student funding” formula, a city funding stream that directly finances school budgets and is designed to funnel more money to the highest-need schools. That represents a roughly 1.6% reduction to that funding stream.

 Additionally plans to expand the Pre-K for All (3-Year olds) will be halted, other initiatives in the Equity and Excellence agenda, including a program that pairs middle school students with one-on-one counselors, and another aimed at setting students on a path to college and a summer program that provides hands-on activities for students and visits to cultural institutions is also being scaled back.

The budget proposal also eliminates the Summer Youth Employment Program; the program, pays about 75,000 young people minimum wage for jobs at nonprofits, in government, and at private companies.

Each year the Council and the Mayor negotiate, add this, delete that, and, by mid-June a budget is agreed upon. This will be an especially trying year. The city budget must be balanced, and, if no budget is agreed upon the city cannot expend dollars; obviously there will be a budget; however, with future revenue unknown, the city budget, as the state budget, may be subject to modifications throughout the year.

I’m just off a Zoom call with a CUNY college president:  summer school could be in-person, could be online, have to plan for both; will regular classes be resumed in September?  Could the fall/winter bring another round of the virus?  We will have to plan for in-person classes and a resumption of online classes; and, the budget implications could continue to get worse.

Seders and Easter festivities at a distance, “virtual” hugs are essential …. take a deep breath, continue to exercise, yoga, eat healthy … this too will pass.

It’s time for all of us to stand together …

.Listen to Pete Seeger, “This Land is Your Land,” on January 21, 2009

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw

Graduation Requirements: Should We Move the Bar Upwards?

Occasionally at the end of a class when a kid was leaving room s/he would say, “Gee Mr. G; that was really hard.” I smiled; I knew I was doing my job.

I knew if students came to my class every day, and stayed engaged, the Regents Examination would be a breeze.  In my first period class I would bring a box of donut holes, enough for half the class, first come, first served: I had surprisingly good attendance at 8 am.

The Board of Regents (BOR) and the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) are engaged in a lengthy review of high school graduation requirements, called Graduation Measures: view the webpage here.

Regional Meetings will be held across the state from now until April, see the date, time and location of the meetings here.

The format of the meetings will be tables of attendees, facilitated by the host district, discussing five questions. Read a thorough description of the process here,

The five questions:

 

  1. What do we want students to know and to be able to do before they graduate?

 

  1. How do we want students to demonstrate such knowledge and skills?

 

  1. How do you measure learning and achievement (as it pertains to the answers to #2 above) to ensure they are indicators of high school completion?

 

  1. How can measures of achievement accurately reflect the skills and knowledge of our special populations, such as students with disabilities and English language learners?

 

  1. What course requirements or examinations will ensure that students are prepared for college and careers or civic engagement?

 

Unfortunately the public debate has almost entirely dealt with Regents Examinations.

Should the exams be continued? Abolished? Reduced in importance? Should portfolios replace the exams? Should the exams be part of a composite grade, and, if so, how much should the exams count?

The five questions supra have pretty much been ignored.

I wrote supporting retaining Regents Examination here  as did Alan Singer here.

Marc Korashan, an experienced educator demurred here and, the former # 2 at the New York City Department of Education, Eric Nadelstern commented,

The single most devastating condemnation of American education is that our high schools haven’t changed since 1968 (or 1896 more likely). However, schools such as those in the Consortium have developed time-tested structures and instructional approaches for the past 35 years. It’s long overdue that we’ve finally decided to pay attention to our successes with an eye toward how these break the mold schools can infirm systemic secondary education reform.

What dies “break the mold” schools mean?

 Jeanette Deuterman, the leader of Long Island Opt Outs argues that Regents scores should be part of a composite score, and a minor part, she calls the process, “Do Not Harm.” (Read here)

I fear limiting the discussion to Regents Exams is short sighted. Is the primary goal to increase graduation rates or to prepare students for the world after high school?

We know that students who barely pass Regents do poorly in community colleges. The retention rates are abysmal. We also know that City College and Baruch, two CUNY schools lead the nation in moving students out of poverty into the middle class.(See Raj Chetty research here) and both entrance requirements and coursework are rigorous.

The My Brothers Keeper (MBK) initiative in  a number of unscreened Hudson Valley high schools have produced impressive results for Young Men of Color. (Read description of practices here).

Success in the MBK schools:  rigorous is instruction, access to advance coursework including Advanced Placement classes, in other words keeping  the bar high.

I fear we are edging towards moving the bar lower.

At a New York City Council hearing an invited guest asked, “Why did I have to take Algebra 1, I was never going to use it,” to applause from the audience.

As I review data on the New York State data portals and the New York City school performance dashboards fewer and fewer students move up ladder. After passing Algebra 1 fewer students take the Geometry Regents and fewer still take the Algebra 2 Regents. How many schools even offer pre-calculus, or, heaven forbid, Advanced Placement Math courses. The same can be said for science, after Living Environment fewer take Chemistry and very few take Physics, in fact, how many schools even offer Physics?  Do high schools offer Computer Science courses? How about basic computer skills, such as, Power Point, Excel and other basic computational skills?

Is Accounting offered in any high schools?

The debate should move away from the narrow discussions about the future of Regents Examinations and move to the first question at the Regional Meeting,

What do we want students to know and to be able to do before they graduate?

A just released research paper from Education Next, “End the ‘Easy A’: Tougher grading standards set more students up for success might move us in a better direction.

Seth Gershenson writes,

My results confirm that “everyone gets a gold star” is not a victimless mentality. Not only do students learn more from tougher teachers, but they also do better in math classes up to two years later. The size of these effects is on the order of replacing an average teacher with one near the top of her game.

 Parents faced with stressed-out children and an increasingly competitive college-admissions process may resist calls for more-rigorous grading. Educators and school leaders may be tempted to satisfy them, which is part of how the grade-inflation problem was created to begin with. But policymakers and other decision-makers would deserve a genuine A if they reminded parents, principals, and teachers that they aren’t doing students any favors by depriving them of appropriate academic challenges or an accurate picture of their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

It’s twenty-five years since we discussed graduation requirements: we better get it right!

Should New York State End Regents Exams? Can Authentic Assessments Replace the Regents? Or, Will We Diminish the Value of a Diploma?

If you meet anyone who went to high school in New York State I’m sure they’ll remember Regents tests; they’ve been around since the 1870’s.  The Regents were intended for college-bound students; most students left high school and moved onto jobs that allowed them to live a middle class life; jobs, good jobs, were plentiful, commonly union jobs with fair pay and benefits.

In the high achieving school in which I taught only a quarter of students bothered to earn a Regents diploma, three-quarters of the kids earned a local diploma, the requirement, the 9th grade level Regents Competency Test, the RCT, and the accompanying diploma referred to as the RCT diploma. Today we would call the system multiple pathways.

By the mid-nineties the world of work had changed, a college degree was essential for a job. After a few years of discussion the Board of Regents moved to a single Regents diploma system, the RCT diploma was phased out. The plan, originally scheduled to take five years took a decade.

John King was appointed state commissioner,  the state won a  $700 million Race to the Top grant, and, adopted the Common Core State Standards.

Failure rates on the Common Core Algebra 1 Regents increased and the state decided to “scale’ the scores; currently students can receive a passing grade with fewer than half correct answers The state plan was to increase the number of correct answers to achieve a passing grade over time; it hasn’t been happening.

Unless student grades on the Algebra 1 exam increase graduation rates may be impacted, See “Rough Calculations: Will the Common Algebra 1 Regents Exam Threaten NYC’s Graduation Rates? (2015).

If you haven’t seen Regents exams recently look at the Global Studies here and the English here.

Click and try the Regents  ….  How’d you do?

The June, 2016 New York State rate graduation rate was 80%, the glass half full, the graduation rates keep edging up, the glass half empty, one in five kids fails to graduate in four years; six percent have dropped out and twelve percent are still registered in school. Although more kids are graduating more kids are not prepared for college and must take remedial courses in college.

The Board of Regents have been creating additional pathways to graduation,  4 + 1, CDOS, the “safety net” for students with disabilities, the re-scoring option, all part of multiples pathways to graduation options .

The members of the board and the commissioner are beginning to ask whether the emphasis on passing examinations is the best measurement of college and career readiness.

At the October Regents Meeting the members began to explore a move away from Regents exams. The commissioner set forth “potential goals,”

  • Prepare students for 21st century post secondary options, for example, Baccalaureate :programs in STEM, Humanities and Arts, Technical degree programs, Career training certificate programs, Adult education programs leading to certifications, Military service, Employment
  • Offer more flexibility in completing credit requirements, relevant pathway choice and student interest
  • Expand external certification assessment options
  • Allow students to demonstrate proficiency in multiple ways.

And the commissioner when on to list questions: called “Key Considerations”

  • How do we ensure that all students including students with disabilities and English language learners are able to access rigorous coursework?
  • Should students have the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in a specific area of graduation through a district designed Capstone project?

 The commissioner could appoint a “blue ribbon” commission, experts, who could review the literature, ask for public input and submit recommendations, or, appoint a regents work group who would work with state education staff to draft a plan.

New York State is one of only seven states that requires exit exams, on the other hand critics defend regents exams; every school should meet the same standards, the same exams. The NY Post, the Manhattan Institute and others on the conservative side might accuse the commissioner and the chancellor of eroding the quality of a diploma.

On the other hand the opt-out parents would applaud, one in five students in the state opts-out of state tests and on Long Island more than half of families opt-out. Opting out of regents exams is not an option.

Daniel Koretz, a leading expert on testing has soured on the emphasis on test-based accountability.

High-stakes tests. Lots of them. And that has become a major problem. Daniel Koretz, one of the nation’s foremost experts on educational testing, argues in The Testing Charade that the whole idea of test-based accountability has failed—it has increasingly become an end in itself, harming students and corrupting the very ideals of teaching. 

Are alternative methods of measuring accountability, such as a portfolio of student work, a viable alternative?

The state of Vermont tried to move to a portfolio system which it abandoned; rater reliability was poor.

 A report analyzing Vermont’s pioneering assessment system has found severe problems with it and raised serious questions about alternative forms of assessment.

The Vermont system, which is being closely watched by educators around the country, is the first statewide assessment program to measure student achievement in part on the basis of portfolios.

 But the report by the RAND Corporation … found that the “rater reliability” in scoring the portfolios–the extent to which scorers agreed about the quality of a student’s work–was very low …

 … the report’s author, said the low levels of reliability indicate that the scores are essentially meaningless, since a different set of raters could come up with a completely different set of scores.

“If you’re not rating reliably, you’re not rating,” he said. “You can’t measure anything unless you measure it reliably.”

 Can the state move backwards, to a dual testing, dual diploma system aimed at improving graduation rates for students with disabilities and English language learners?

The state ESSA plan does not include this option.

The commissioner did endorse district-based Capstone projects.

Capstone projects are an excellent example of authentic assessment; at the college level a project might require an entire term to prepare.

The following comes from a partial description of the requirements of a college Capstone project

Capstone Expectations:

The capstone marks the culmination of the student’s studies. Accordingly, the topic selected should require application of a broad range of the skills and knowledge … The final paper must reflect thorough research, analysis, critical thinking and clear writing.

Capstone Content:

  • The topic students choose must be one they develop and work on independently.
  • The paper must showcase a deep understanding of an area….
  • The finished capstone must be a minimum of xx pages and include: an abstract; a background statement; a literature review; objectives; an analysis of existing research; an original analysis of the … challenges; opportunities, threats and possible solutions, critical and thoughtful conclusions; along with a bibliography, charts and any necessary illustrations.
  • The paper may contain primary research, ….Alternatively and more commonly, students may write their paper based on an analysis of secondary research. This approach may include a secondary data analysis or other specified metrics plan.
  • All secondary research must be attributed throughout the paper and in the bibliography.

This is a significant project: the commissioner suggests a “district-designed Capstone project,” how can we assure rater reliability in 770 school districts?

The commissioner and the regents are beginning a long journey with no clear outcome. Students pass courses and fail regents exams: should the failure prevent a student from graduating?  Should one three-hour exam determine graduation? On the other hand bar exams determine who becomes a lawyer; civil service exams determine who becomes a police officer or fire fighter.

I look forward to a deep discussion with experts and public participation and, I would recommend that the state hold hearings around the state.

Are we too wedded to Regents tests?

Are we jumping on a reform wave which may diminish a diploma?

Can/should we change the nature of instruction from the current modality to an authentic, project-based educational modality?

What do you think?