regents exams

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Taking Stock

New York

Tisch: Student's test woes show need for more diploma paths

New York

Coalition wants the state to let more schools skip the Regents

A sign inside Urban Academy, a New York Performance Standards Consortium school, details the coalition's past struggles to maintain its Regents-exam waivers. A coalition of small high schools where students complete graduation projects rather than take most Regents exams could soon add several more schools to its ranks – if the state lets those schools skip the tests. The New York Performance Standards Consortium is in talks with the state to get Regents-exam waivers for as many as 22 schools that follow the group’s instructional model and use alternative assessments, but currently must also administer the Regents tests. The schools, which have been part of a multi-year pilot, include several high schools in the Internationals and Expeditionary Learning networks. Many of them have staff members who worked at consortium schools in the past. The consortium currently includes 28 public schools — 26 in New York City and one each in Rochester and Ithaca — where students are exempt from taking all Regents exams except for English. Instead, they must earn class credits and complete intensive projects to graduate. The group and its supporters – which include the city teachers union and more recently the city Department of Education – have lobbied the state to let more schools trade the Regents tests for the long-term projects, citing data showing higher-than-average graduation and college-enrollment rates among consortium schools. “I think it’s a disgrace that these schools have to apply for a waiver to do more work and prepare children better,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, adding that obtaining the state waivers is rarely easy. “We know every time we do it it’s a political battle.”
New York

Serious glitches with electronic grading delay Regents scores

New York

City: Rate of just-passing Regents scores has dropped by half

Percentage of Regents exams scoring exactly 65, from 2010 to 2012. A series of changes to the way Regents exams are graded has dramatically slimmed down the number of scores that are exactly passing, according to the Department of Education. In 2010, 7 percent of exams citywide received the lowest passing score, a 65. This year, that proportion was just 3.5 percent, officials said. The number of 65s awarded on the five exams required for graduation rose sharply between 2006 and 2009. The recent decline came as the city implemented several new rules prompted by the bulge in the number of 65s, which suggested that teachers might be bumping up the scores of students on the verge of passing, sometimes illicitly. Department officials said the reduction in the number of 65s showed that the policy changes had successfully curbed incentives to pad students' scores. "Even if the higher percentage of 65s wasn’t due to intentional cheating but well-meaning people making sure kids have the best chance to graduate, what we see … is that there isn’t that incentive to push a score to 65," said Deputy Chief Academic Officer Adina Lopatin. The department released the data in response to a new report by the Independent Budget Office that looks at Regents passing patterns for students who entered high school in 2005. Confirming conventional wisdom and a slew of recent studies, the report found that the more Regents exams a student had passed early in high school, the more likely he was to graduate on time.
New York

NY Mag looks at Stuyvesant culture in light of cheating scandal

New York

P-TECH students act as teachers in summer geometry course

Seifullah (left) cuts a paper cylinder into circles to teach P-TECH students at one table for a lesson on how to calculate volume. All but a handful of ninth- and 10th-graders at Pathways in Technology Early College High School have an ambitious summer goal: to pass the Regents exam in geometry before school starts in September. To that end, they are enrolled in a six-week long summer enrichment class meant to get them up to speed on the information technology-themed school's academic expectations and prepare them to take the state's geometry exam this month. Classes are long — two to four hours each morning — and involve a mix of group projects, drills, homework, and writing assignments. GothamSchools spent the morning in one marathon math class two weeks before the Aug. 16 exam. As the students worked in pairs on projects, four teachers hovered above, sometimes chiming in with explanations of geometry concepts and sometimes reigning students in when they wandered off-task. After class, the lead teacher, Jamilah Seifullah, explained how she kept track of the students and what she wanted them to learn. As when we chronicled Ryan Hall's math class in May, we've included Seifullah's commentary in block quotes beneath our observations. Seifullah, who taught geometry to a small cohort of advanced math students last spring in the school's first year, took turns directing the class with Rachel Jamison, an English teacher who is pitching in with math instruction this summer. Jamison is also offering English lessons, but not for credit and during a shorter class period. With the Regents exam approaching, she and Seifullah agreed to combine the classes for longer math sessions, but weave in tasks that build literacy skills. 10 a.m.  Already, 32 P-TECH students had been working in pairs on a major assignment for almost an hour. Sitting at round tables in groups of five or six, each pair was using a computer to put the finishing touches on presentations on various geometry concepts, such as surface area and the isosceles triangle theorem, they would later present to their classmates.
New York

Major payroll improprieties alleged at Fort Hamilton High School

New York

Teachers give new Regents exam scoring system mixed reviews

The brand-new library at Evander Childs opened so teachers from other schools could grade Regents exams there. Last year, the Evander Childs Campus got a new library, replete with rows of new computers and a mural depicting scholarly pursuits. The library opened its doors for the first time last month — but not to students. Instead, it housed teachers from other high school campuses, who convened there to try out a new model for grading students' final exams. Regents exams, which students must pass to graduate from high school, have been scored by the teachers who administered them since the Regents exam program began in the nineteenth century. But mounting concerns about cheating — spurred on by the finding that students hit the minimum passing score at a disproportionately high rate — have prompted the city and state to make changes to how the exams are graded. The state’s test security overhaul calls for schools to stop grading their own Regents exams by June 2013. The changes are meant to reduce opportunities and incentives for teachers to inflate their students’ scores, which under state law could factor into teachers’ evaluations in the future. The shift would bring Regents exam grading in line with how most states score high-stakes exams and with New York State's requirements about elementary and middle schools' exams. Buoyed by its own concerns about cheating and softer forms of score inflation, the city has sped that timeline up. In January, a handful of schools tested out a system to ensure that teachers do not grade their own students’ exams. Department of Education officials expanded that system, known as "distributed scoring," to more than 160 schools this spring.  Most of the schools deployed teachers to centralized locations such as Evander Childs, and teachers from 17 schools tested a system for grading exams online. In total, about 107,000 exams were graded under distributed scoring last month. Teachers who participated in the pilot gave it mixed reviews. Some said the system made them better graders because they considered only the answers, not the students, when assigning scores. But others said the system of musical graders was complicated, time-consuming, and likely to lead to unfairly deflated scores. And a small number of missing tests highlight the potential cost of logistical mishaps.
New York

City alters Regents grading, credit recovery policies after audit

The Department of Education is cracking down on graduation rate inflation, following an internal audit that uncovered errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools. The audits, conducted by the department's internal auditor, scrutinized data at 60 high schools that had posted unusual or striking results. Of the 9,582 students who graduated from the schools in 2010, the audit found that 292 did not have the exam grades or course credits required under state regulations. At one school, Landmark High School, 35 students had graduated without earning all of the academic credits required for graduation. At another, Pablo Neruda Academy for Architecture and World Studies, 19 students had gotten credits through "credit recovery" that the school could not prove complied with state requirements. At two schools, Fort Hamilton High School and Hillcrest High School, an examination of Regents exams uncovered problems in the scoring of multiple students' tests. Department officials said they had asked Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon to launch inquiries at nine schools based on issues raised during the audits. (Schools where investigations were already underway were excluded from the audit.) Students who graduated without sufficient credits won't have their diplomas revoked, officials said. And schools won't have their graduation rates revised to reflect the audited numbers, either, except potentially where the city found schools had purged students from their rolls without confirming that they had enrolled elsewhere. Instead, department officials are cracking down on loopholes in city and state regulations about how to graduate students. Among the major policy changes are revisions to Regents exam scoring procedures, new limitations on "credit recovery" options for students who fail courses, and an alteration to the way schools determine whether a student has met graduation requirements. The changes reflect a new understanding of the degree to which principals had become confused with — or, in some cases, ignorant of — graduation policies. They also reflect an unusual acknowledgment from the Department of Education that its strategies for delivering support to schools and holding them accountable are not always successful.
New York

Also in Cuomo's budget: restored exams and other ed initiatives

New York

DOE priorities seen in fresh tweaks to progress report formula

In an education department that's driven by data, what gets measured is a clear expression of values. So this year's elementary and middle school progress reports signal that the city is serious about integrating disabled students into regular classes, helping minority boys, and quickly getting immigrant students learning in English. The broad contours of what we'll see later today when the Department of Education releases the newest progress reports, based on the last school year, have been clear for months. Back in the spring, the DOE told principals that it would not insulate schools against steep score drops as it did last year, so we know that more schools will get failing grades that put them at risk of closure. In fact, the department set a fixed distribution of scores: 25 percent of schools will get As, 35 percent Bs, 30 percent Cs, 7 percent Ds, and 3 percent Fs. Last year, just 5 percent of schools were awarded D or F grades. We also know each school's state test scores, announced last month. While high or low average scores don't always equate to high or low progress report grades, because the reports are based mostly on the test scores, they often do. (The department is also guaranteeing that schools with test scores in the top third citywide get no lower than a C; last year, only schools in the top quarter got that promise.) Also, because fewer schools registered large test score gains or losses this year, progress report grades are likely to be relatively stable. That means that the biggest changes could come as the result of the department's annual tinkering with the reports' formula.
New York

City schools chiefs suggest Jan. Regents exam compromise

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg said he wasn't happy about a state decision to eliminate January Regents exams. But he said city officials hadn't decided whether to push back officially against it. Now it appears they have. On Friday, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott joined his counterparts in four other big-city school districts in formally petitioning the state to reinstate the January exam date. They argue that the change will affect urban students disproportionately because those students are more likely to take nontraditional pathways to graduation. (Dozens of principals from suburban Long Island have also joined the chorus of city principals asking for the decision to be reversed.) In separate letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and to Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner of Education John King, the five superintendents — from Syracuse, Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester, and New York City — suggest a compromise. "At a minimum," they say (twice), the state should consider adding back the five Regents exams typically taken to meet graduation requirements. The letters argue that simply reducing the number of exams offered in January would cut costs but would still allow students to graduate. The elimination of the test date was part of a slate of changes that the Board of Regents said would close an $8 million budget gap in the state's testing program. The letters came from the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, which last weighed in on policy issues in May when it suggested changes to the appeals process for teacher evaluations that were not accepted. The website for the conference listed on the letters sent last week is not active.
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