NY Board of Regents approves new graduation standards to better prepare students for the future

Earlier today, the New York State Board of Regents approved new options for students to meet the State’s high school graduation requirements. The new regulations establish multiple, comparably rigorous pathways to graduation, including pathways in Career and Technical Education (CTE); Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); the Arts; Biliteracy (languages other than English); and the Humanities. The new regulations also establish a two-year Global History and Geography course requirement and modify the design of the Global History and Geography Regents Exam.  

Check out NYSED’s video explaining the changes.

News and reactions from around NY: (we’ll be updating as coverage continues)

 

NYSUT: State Ed ban on discussing tests violates free speech

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has filed suit in federal court against the State Education Department, arguing that the state is infringing on teachers’ First Amendment right to free speech by restricting them from discussing their concerns about specific questions on standardized tests.

“How can you learn from a test that you can’t talk about?” asked NYSUT officials. Under state law and policy, discussing the material on the exams is actually a punishable offense. You can read NYSUT’s press release on the lawsuit here.

News coverage

Changes in the pathway to graduation could be on horizon

State officials are considering alternative ways for students to get a high school diploma, such as getting an industry certification.

New York is one of 24 states that utilizes “exit exams” by requiring students to be proficient on specific standardized tests in order to graduate from high school. To earn a Regents diploma, students need to score 65 or higher on the five core-subject exams (English, math, global history, U.S. History and science). The Board of Regents has been developing a plan that would allow NY’s students to substitute one of the social studies Regents with a “Pathway” program and exam in arts, career and technical education, the humanities or STEM (science, technology and engineering and math.)

Why are the Regents considering the switch? To quote Cosimo Tangorra, NY’s deputy commissioner for P-12 education, “The path to college isn’t the only path that’s going to lead to happiness.”

Read the article here.

What do you think about the possible new pathways option?

Friday Rundown 9.12.14

A good Friday morning to you!

Cuomo defeats Teachout, liberal rival, in the Democratic primary (NY Times)

Tenure war on teachers rages (Albany Times Union)

Why do New York’s poor schools have lower-rated teachers? (Capital New York)

Common Core 2.0: Common Core by another name (Washington Post)

Common Core: What’s True, False and Fuzzy (Washington Post’s Answer Sheet Blog)

Making sense of Common Core resistance (Ed Week)

America’s Top High Schools for 2014 (Newsweek)

Will America’s Education System Endanger its Prosperity? (Wall Street Journal)

And lastly, these literary-themed school supplies put a smile on our face. Have a great weekend!

POV: Poverty and achievement are inextricably linked

Points_view

This Point of View was submitted by Shaker Junior High School principal Dr. Russell Moore of the North Colonie Central School District. Dr. Moore is currently in his 27th year as a principal. You can read more from him at his blog “Moore Perspective.”

The NYS Commissioner of Education, John B.King, Jr., recently posted a letter on a NY public access web site regarding the 2014 NYS assessment results, released in late August.  Included in his letter are two scatterplots of all the New York State results by school, one graph for ELA and the other for math.  Each school is displayed based on their 2014 percent proficient and their reported percentage of economically disadvantaged students.  In other words, the scatterplots (which can be viewed along with King’s entire letter at engageny.org and are reproduced below) show the relationship between academic achievement, as measured by the NYS assessments, and poverty:

math scatterplot

The relationship is fairly clear to see in both scatterplots; as schools’ poverty levels increase their achievement results decrease.  This is not a universal surety, as there are always exceptions to any rule, but the trend is obvious.   And this trend is not shocking or contrary to historical data.  Indeed, there is a clear correlation heavily supported by research between poverty and achievement.  Students of poverty perform worse, in general, on all measures of academic achievement.  I want to stress that there are exceptions to what research clearly indicates.  There are, of course, economically disadvantaged students who do very well academically, in fact, some who do as well as typical wealthier students.

Commissioner King writes, however,

“These results make clear that those who claim that demography is destiny and that we cannot improve teaching and learning until we have first fixed poverty are simply mistaken.  In New York, there are many examples of higher poverty/higher performance schools…this is not to imply that poverty is an unimportant factor – it is extremely important, for all of us.  But the idea that poverty or family circumstances outside of school are insurmountable obstacles for teaching and learning is a fallacy.”

When considered only on the surface, his statement is meant to empower, to reinforce that poverty does not mandate poor performance for every student but instead that any student has the capability to rise above his/her poverty and succeed.  Indeed, while accurate, his statement tends to remove poverty from the equation, which is misleading and even disingenuous.  I encourage Commissioner King to read Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, in which the plight of East St. Louis schools is detailed.  Kozol would agree that even in the poorest of schools there are individual students who rise above their poverty and succeed academically, but he would stress the obvious:  that doing so is highly improbable.

And that’s where King’s message is misleading.  Academic achievement is strongest where opportunities are richest.  Where do opportunities abound?  Not in poor districts, but in the wealthier ones.  Money is needed to provide opportunities for students, to provide facilities that put students in a proper environment, to provide top quality teachers, to provide programs that allow students to stretch, to provide, well, to provide all that the students in wealthy districts have.   You cannot provide equal opportunities for students until you address the inequity of wealth between districts.  Until you do that, students in poverty will not have anywhere the same opportunities and the trends seen in the scatterplots above will continue, if not worsen.

Commissioner King, let’s be honest.  Your pep talk is empty until there is equitable funding for schools.  You can attempt to encourage all you want but there will only continue to be the exceptions you mention in your letter.  You cannot will away the link between poverty and achievement.

And that is my perspective.

Math scores up, ELA remains flat, on 3-8 assessments

New York students showed progress in Common Core-based math exams in 2014, but scores on English Language Arts assessments remained largely stagnant.

On Thursday, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) released district and school results for the English and math assessments that students in grades three through eight took in the spring of 2014. This is the second year the exams have been aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards.

According to NYSED, students statewide made “significant” progress in math, increasing from 31.2 a year ago to 35.8 across all grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose in math, from 66.9 to 69.6 percent.

Students made slight progress in ELA, – 31.3 percent in 2013 to 31.4 percent in 2014 – though progress varied across the need/resource categories.

Both Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Education Commissioner John King described the Common Core implementation as a “transition period,” but both praised the progress made.

“The test scores show that students from all economic, race, ethnicity and geographic backgrounds can and are making progress,” Tisch said. “This is still a transition period. It will take time before the changes taking place in our classrooms are fully reflected in the test scores. But the growth we see is directly attributable to the dedication and determination of so many classroom teachers and school leaders across the state.”

Last year, the scores provided a new baseline for student performance based upon the changes taking place in classrooms across the state and the country. 2014 is the first year a “matched students” approach is being taken, measuring student learning growth and providing more applicable data that compares the performance of one year’s students at a particular grade level against the next year’s cohort at the same grade level.

State assessments do not factor into a student’s grades. State test scores are used to help determine which students may need extra help and the best ways to provide extra academic support.

Regional Summary of 3-8 Exam Results:

Mathematics

Students statewide are doing better in math. The percentage of students who met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) increased from 31.2 to 35.8 across all grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose, from 66.9 percent to 69.6 percent.

A smaller percentage of students met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) in the Big 4 city school districts than statewide. However, year-to-year performance increased in each Big 5 city school district, and New York City performance approached statewide levels.

  • Buffalo: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 11.4 in 2013 to 13.1 in 2014.
  • New York City: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 30.1 in 2013 to 34.5 in 2014.
  • Syracuse: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 7.2 in 2013 to 7.6 in 2014.
  • Rochester: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 4.8 in 2013 to 6.8 in 2014.
  • Yonkers: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 16.1 in 2013 to 21.1 in 2014.

Although the achievement gap remains statewide, an increased percentage of students across all race/ethnicity groups met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4).

  • Black students: the statewide percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 16.1 in 2013 to 19.3 in 2014.
  • Hispanic students: the statewide percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 18.9 in 2013 to 23.1 in 2014.

ELA

Students statewide are doing slightly better in ELA. The percentage of students who met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) increased from 31.3 to 31.4 across grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose, from 69.0 percent to 70.0 percent.

A smaller percentage of students met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) in the Big 4 city school districts than statewide. Year-to-year performance increases were largest in New York City and Yonkers, and New York City’s performance approached statewide levels.

  • Buffalo: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 12.1 in 2013 to 12.2 in 2014.
  • New York City: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 27.4 in 2013 to 29.4 in 2014.
  • Syracuse: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above stayed the same, at 8.5, from 2013 to 2014.
  • Rochester: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 5.6 in 2013 to 5.7 in 2014.
  • Yonkers: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 16.9 in 2013 to 18.7 in 2014.

In New York City, an increased percentage of students in all race/ethnicity groups met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4). For example:

  • Black students: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 17.2 in 2013 to 18.6 in 2014.
  • Hispanic students: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 17.2 in 2013 to 18.7 in 2014.

Measuring Student Progress in Grades 3-8 English Language Arts and Mathematics [PDF]

 

Friday Rundown 8.1.14

The first round of test scores since Common Core’s implementation have been released.  This prompted the State’s release of a parent “bill of rights” to clarify how the data could be used and privacy requirements pertaining to the results. Now, people are wondering how schools are going to utilize the new feedback and whether students and teachers can rise to the curriculum. The challenges that districts face, such as integrating the standards into Special Education and the new TASC exam requiring high school equivalency students to meet the standards, are also making headlines this week.

The lawsuit against teacher tenure was filed Monday and has the potential to bring about big changes in the New York State education system.

School is getting more expensive and so are school supplies. As back to school season approaches are you ready to spend a little extra? If not, maybe your community is doing something to help families out like the communities in the news this week:

Other news:

Officials look to educate local teens for future nano jobs (Utica Observer Dispatch)

A teacher asks Arne Duncan a gutsy question. Here’s the answer. (Washington Post)

Utica’s King school benefiting from extended days (Utica Observer Dispatch)

More Schools Open Their Doors to the Whole Community (Wall Street Journal)

Friday Rundown 7.25.14

Schools are thinking outside of the box to try to offer the best to their students. Districts have been faced with funding challenges and state and national mandates that have made it difficult to provide things such as learning technology, healthy foods that students want to eat and alternative programming for non-traditional students. Districts and students have been forced to be creative to find solutions.

The usual topics of Common Core, tenure, state aid, and national and international student competitiveness have not gone away. Here’s some other interesting news from the week.

The problem with how we talk about poverty and kids (The Washington Post)

State awards $11M in after-school grants (Capital New York)

Setting the record straight on tenure (New York Daily News)

Investing in early learning (Buffalo News)

Middle school principals discuss Common Core, technology and promoting identity formation (Albany Business Review)

US teens are flunking financial literacy test (Middletown Times Herald Record)

New York schools have lower dropout rates than national average (Watertown Daily Times)

Research: To save Common Core, New York should rethink high school exams

A new research study by New America Education says that New York state should be rethinking its graduation requirements if it has any hope of saving the poorly implemented Common Core Learning Standards.

New York is one of 24 states that utilizes “exit exams” by requiring students to be proficient on specific standardized tests in order to graduate from high school. To earn a Regents diploma, students need to score 65 or higher on the five core-subject exams (English, math, global history, U.S. History and science).

Beginning next year, NY will launch more rigorous exams aligned to the Common Core. In theory, these exams are designed to determine who is ready for college. But when used as an “exit exam,” they could now also determine who is able to go to college since they will act as a gatekeeper for earning a diploma. The study finds that states utilizing an “exit exam” format run the risk of weakening the intent of the Common Core and undermining efforts to increase rigor, according to researcher Anne Hyslop of the New America Foundation.

Concern stems from the fact that the current cut rates for exit exams would have to be greatly changed to reflect college and career readiness accurately. If states shift the standard to true “college and career readiness,” huge proportions of students could flunk since it’s estimated that “only 39 percent of the nation’s high school seniors were prepared for college-level math, and only 38 percent were prepared in reading,” based on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

“Because states cannot – and will not – suddenly deny high school degrees to large numbers of students, particularly those who are already at-risk and furthest behind, states will likely dilute the rigor of the college-and career-ready benchmark if meeting that score is tied to graduation requirements,” Hyslop said.

Read the full report here.

 

A grammar lesson courtesy of “Weird Al”

In this world of texting, tweeting and snapchatting, proper use of grammar often takes a backseat to more, shall we say, creative uses of the English language.

Well one individual has had enough of this country’s grammatical errors.

Musician-comedian “Weird Al” Yankovic recently released a new music video, “Word Crimes,” detailing the many grammatical mistakes we make on a daily basis. If you’re not familiar with “Weird Al,” he is a musical-parodist known for his humorous songs that poke fun at popular culture. This latest song is a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”

All of your favorites are covered in this new hit, including:

  • There, their, they’re
  • Its vs It’s
  • Your vs You’re
  • I could care less
  • And more!

It’s Friday. Let’s have some fun. Enjoy.