testing testing

Should a failed Regents exam mean a project-based second chance? Officials set to discuss

The Board of Regents will consider a series of measures on Monday that could shake up the way students across New York state earn a high school diploma.

State education officials are looking for the go-ahead to develop rules allowing students to substitute project-based assessments for failed Regents exams and to offer more leniency for those who barely fail a Regents test. Another proposal would allow a “career development” credential currently available only to students with disabilities to count in place of the fifth Regents exam required for graduation.

The discussion comes as earning a high school diploma in New York state has become more difficult. A 2012 decision required students to pass five Regents exams with a score of 65, instead of the previously required 55, to receive a traditional diploma. Though the graduation rate has continued to rise, Regents exams are scheduled to become more rigorous in the years ahead, raising concerns that more students will fall short.

“The Board of Regents has been committed to providing multiple pathways for all students to graduation with a regular high school diploma,” reads Regents material posted online.

State officials have already approved a “4 + 1” option that allows students to pass four Regents exams in core subjects and show proficiency in an alternative subject, like a technical field or art, in place of a fifth exam. The Regents have also approved “safety net” provisions for students with disabilities.

But the measures up for discussion on Monday could pave the way for some of the most comprehensive changes yet. They are also likely to raise questions about what skills students should need to graduate, and how to help more students earn a diploma while maintaining high standards. More than three-quarters of CUNY community college students who graduated from city high schools in 2014 took remedial classes, according to the New York Post.

One of the most wide-ranging items calls for the development of project-based assessments, which would assess students on a series of tasks or projects completed on a computer. Those assessments, which the proposal says would be of “the same rigor” as the corresponding Regents test but measure the standards differently, could be available to all students who fail a Regents exam.

The proposal is in line with the Regents’ recent moves to reconsider the role of traditional tests. At last month’s meeting, they supported recommendations from the governor’s Common Core task force, which suggested editing the learning standards and providing more flexibility around the grade 3-8 state tests.

Another proposal would allow the Career Development and Occupational Studies credential help students earn a traditional diploma. Currently, the CDOS credential is a skills-based certificate available to students with disabilities. Regents materials indicate that, if approved, the credential would be available to all students.

The state created the CDOS credential in 2013 as a way to signal students’ readiness for entry-level employment. But the credential is not accepted in place of a diploma, keeping students from attending college, entering the military or finding a job in most cases, advocates said.

“The CDOS commencement credential is in many ways a road to nowhere,” said Abja Midha, a project director at Advocates for Children who works to establish alternative pathways to graduation for students with disabilities. “Panera Bread asks if you have a high school diploma. What are the options for these kids?”

Allowing both project-based assessments and the CDOS credential could help more students with disabilities earn a diploma. In 2014, only 53 percent of students with disabilities graduated on time statewide.

Creating new ways for students with disabilities to graduate has been a goal of many Regents this year. Regent Roger Tilles from Long Island rallied on Sunday with Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky and other education officials to support alternative graduation pathways for students with disabilities.

The final measure up for discussion Monday would allow students who score between 60 and 64 on a Regents exam to appeal their score — a change officials noted could affect 4,000 students. Currently, students are eligible to appeal their score only if they miss the mark by three or fewer points.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”