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February 11, 2011
College-readiness may take even more than state's stats show
This week, state officials released some grim statistics: according to measures derived from a study conducted by a state committee last summer, just 23 percent of city high school graduates are well-prepared for college. But the college-readiness recommendations the City University of New York gives for its incoming students require even more achievement than the measures used by the state this week. And the city is preparing to judge high schools on how well they prepare students for college on a range of standards that city officials claim are more robust. For their data release this week, state officials examined students who earned at least a 75 on their English Regents exams and an 80 on their math A exams. Those cut-offs were based on an analysis of state test scores performed by Harvard University testing expert Daniel Koretz and assistant professor Jennifer Jennings last summer. That analysis predicted that students receiving those Regents exam scores would likely receive a C or higher in the college-level course. CUNY officials also recommend that students enter their classes having received at least a 75 on the English exam and an 80 on the Math A test. But in addition, they suggest that students also have scored at least a 65 on the Math B, the next test in the math sequence.
January 27, 2011
State to allow some students to substitute grades for Regents
City high school seniors who needed to take a Regents exam to graduate this month with a local diploma will not need to reschedule the test, state education officials announced today. Instead, those students will be able to use passing course grades to fulfill their graduation requirements. Students are normally required to take five Regents exams to graduate. Students must score above a 55 for the test to be counted towards a local diploma; for the more rigorous Regents diploma, they must reach the 65 mark. Seniors who want to earn a Regents diploma must wait to re-take the exams in June, the next time they are offered. The January tests that would have been given today will not be re-administered. This raises the stakes for some seniors who plan to graduate in June by reducing the number of opportunities they have to pass the exam this year. State Education Commissioner David Steiner encouraged students to wait and sit for the exams later in the year. "We hold a Regents Diploma as the goal for all," he said in a statement. "However, this is the fairest course of action for the seniors affected this week." City and state officials spent the day discussing how to accommodate students who needed to take exams today to graduate as planned. “We are pleased the State took this step that will alow those seniors with sufficient credits and coursework to graduate this month," Chancellor Cathie Black said in a statement. "However, we fully understand how disappointing it must be to all of those students who studied so hard for their Regents exams, and for the teachers and parents who worked with them.” City officials estimated that between 400 and 500 students would benefit from the state's decision. Last year, just under 3,500 students graduated between January and May. Of those students, roughly 400 used the winter Regents exams to fulfill graduation requirements.
January 27, 2011
Snow day disrupts Regents exams; city in talks with state
A big question mark hanging over today's snow closure is what will happen to the high school students who were supposed to take Regents exams this morning. Students are required to take the exams to graduate, and today's test date was particularly important for some students hoping to graduate this month. City officials said today that schools ordered nearly 100,000 exams in six subjects, though frequently the number of tests ordered is larger than the number of students who sit for them. No one seems to know yet exactly when those students will get a chance to take their exams. A GothamSchools reader told us that she spent 45 minutes waiting on 311, the city's information hotline, this morning, before being told only that today's administration had been canceled. "We are in discussion with state education officials about finding a solution for students who were unable to take the Regents exams scheduled for today," Mayor Bloomberg said during a press conference to discuss the surprise storm. "This is not a problem only for New York City. There are other cities in the southern part of the state that have exactly the same problem." A Department of Education spokesman said the city hoped to finalize arrangements with the state today. State policy is typically not to administer make-up Regents exams.
August 18, 2010
Advanced diploma a tougher reach after state cuts some exams
Earning the most rigorous of the state's diplomas just became a little bit harder for thousands of students. To get a Regents diploma with advanced distinction, the gold standard of New York State high school diplomas, a student must pass eight Regents exams, including one in a foreign language. But earlier this month state officials decided to cut costs by slimming down its testing program. Among the casualties: the exams in Latin, German, and Hebrew, taken last year by nearly 4,500 public school students statewide. Nearly 17 percent of last year's city graduates, or 7,857 students, earned the advanced diploma, and the vast majority studied French or Spanish. But more than 11,000 city students took Latin (3,409), German (4,698), or Hebrew (4,287) classes last year. They can still get credit toward the advanced diploma, but they'll have to demonstrate proficiency another way, according to Jane Briggs, a State Department of Education spokeswoman. "They'd follow the same procedures already in place for students who study other languages not tested by the Regents, such as Chinese," she said.
August 9, 2010
State officials trim, but not gut, high school testing program
One thing is sure, even in an uncertain economy: Students will still take tests. New York State made that official last week when it finalized some cost-cutting changes to the state's high school testing program but left most exams and test dates intact. Back in March, state officials issued a dramatic proposal to gut the high school testing program. The state could save $13.7 million annually, they said, by eliminating exams in all subjects except math, reading, and science; ending January and August test dates used to help students graduate; and no longer translating test materials into foreign languages. After the state budget provided for part of the Education Department's funding request, officials ultimately decided to enact a scaled-down set of test changes. Students will no longer take a social studies exam in grades 5 and 8, and students who study German, Hebrew, and Latin won't be able to take a state exam in those subjects. But the vast majority of the Regents exams required for graduation will remain in place, at least for now.
June 29, 2010
A musical experiment's Regents results show promise
Last week, I wrote about a test prep program at New Design High School that aimed to boost Regents exam scores through original hip-hop…
June 23, 2010
They might have 99 problems, but Regents prep ain't one
New Design High School social studies teacher Tad Donozo, right, helps coach 11th grade U.S. history students for next week It was exactly a week before juniors at New Design High School would sit for their American History Regents exam, but you might not know it from the hip-hop beats emanating from a stereo at the front of the class. But you'd know by listening to the song's lyrics, which discussed essay-writing strategy. And after the song ended, one student kept going. "Don't just describe — analyze," he rapped. "Write what you mean, discuss the theme." The class was in the midst of reviewing the U.S. History Regents curriculum using a pilot program called Fresh Prep, which wrote its own hip-hop songs to help students remember facts, concepts and test-taking strategies. The program's creators are trying to prove that music and arts can help boost student test scores in core subjects like history and English. They've already seen some success: When they ran the program on a smaller scale last year, the vast majority of students passed their exams. Listen to one of Fresh Prep's U.S. History Regents songs, "Turn of the Century." You can listen to all of the program's songs on its website.
June 15, 2010
On first day of Regents exams, test jitters spill onto Twitter
Pre-exam anxiety and post-exam elation and regret are in the air today, but those feelings are also streaming through Twitter. By mid-morning today, the first day the city's high schoolers are sitting for their Regents exams, thousands of tweets included the word "Regents." A Twitter search paints a portrait of how students spend their time studying for and stressing out about their tests before they take them and how they celebrate after they finish. And it even includes a rare tweet from inside the exam hall. "Good luck to everyone taking the Regents this week, including myself for my FINAL chance," wrote one student. Jitters abound, though some students are entering the exams with confidence: Some students warn that Twitter can abet cheaters, while others plan their cheating strategies:
May 21, 2010
After test tampering concerns, Regents exams will be scanned
High school Regents exams have long come under criticism for being easy to game: Teachers grade their own students' work, and checks against cheating are flawed. That could change next year with a new rule voted in by the Board of Regents. Rather than rely on a group of teachers and state officials to examine tests for grade tampering, the city will begin scanning students' multiple choice answer sheets next year. State officials said scanning tests will let them perform a high-tech cheating check called "erasure analysis." That means officials will be able to look for instances of teachers changing students' answers by counting the number of times each student erased a wrong answer and bubbled in a correct one. Next year, only six tests that students frequently take in order to get diplomas will be scanned, but in 2012 all Regents exams will be.
November 20, 2009
Oversight of Regents scoring has serious flaws, state audit finds
The New York State Education Department is failing to ensure that Regents tests are properly scored, according to an audit published today by the state comptroller's office. The exams are given to high school students, who have to pass five in different subject areas in order to receive a Regents diploma. Teachers normally administer and score the tests under the supervision of each school's principal, and the school district is responsible for reporting scores to the state. The audit focused on the review process the state uses to ensure the scoring is accurate and consistent. In these reviews, a group of teachers and NYSED officials re-score a random selection of exams and compare them to how the tests were originally scored to judge the accuracy. The review team then makes recommendations to the state and to schools about how to improve the scoring process. In the most recent review, completed in 2005, the scores awarded by schools were routinely higher than the scores given by the reviewers, and reviewers reported that school scorers frequently assigned full credit to student answers that were "vague, incomplete, inaccurate or insufficiently detailed." But auditors found little to suggest that the state followed up to improve the process, the report says. "For example, we found no evidence actions were taken to implement the Review team's recommendations to improve scoring training and enhance quality control during the scoring process. We also found no evidence actions were taken to bring about improvements at particular schools," the auditors write.
April 23, 2009
Panel: NYC public school grads not starting college prepared
More city public school graduates are enrolling at City University of New York Colleges, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and CUNY President Matt Goldstein boasted at a press conference last month. But whether the students are prepared for the college experience, both in and outside the classroom, is much less clear. Only 7.5% of students take all of the high school courses that CUNY recommends, and more than 70% of the first-year students in CUNY's junior colleges must take remedial courses to catch up on basic skills, according to John Garvey, who was until recently the dean in charge of CUNY's College Now program, which allows high school students to take college-level courses. Garvey presented the information at an event Tuesday held by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, which is developing a set of recommendations for how to boost student achievement. One major problem is that the most advanced high school courses, called Regents courses to match the exit exams students must pass, do not approximate the style or difficulty of college classes, Garvey said. CUNY freshmen are exempted from remedial courses if they score a 75 on the math and English Regents exams. But the tests focus on material that should be learned in middle school and the first years of high school, Garvey said. "They don't align with the real needs of college courses," he said.
April 22, 2009
Regents are weighing procedural rules for "credit recovery"
Some high schools allow students who fail a class to get credit for it anyway by completing a short course or special project in a controversial practice known as "credit recovery." But despite the practice's widespread use, credit recovery has actually never been permitted under state regulations, which require a certain amount of "seat time" for students to earn course credit. Now, the practice could soon get a green light from the State Education Department, which last year said it would review whether credit recovery met its standards for course completion. At its meeting this week, the Board of Regents reviewed a proposal from SED for a formal policy on what the department called "'making-up' course credit." The proposed policy, which SED developed in collaboration with the city Department of Education, does away with seat time as a basic standard for whether students earn high school course credit. The proposal would require schools to establish committees of teachers and administrators to determine whether a student's make-up work should receive credit. It would not require that students spend a specific amount of time making up the credit, but it would mandate that replacement instruction be given by a teacher certified in the subject. (The full proposal is at the end of this post.) SED Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier told the committee that a policy is needed because credit recovery programs are becoming more prevalent.
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