New York may raise Regents bar

New York’s Regents diploma “doesn’t mean college-ready,” says Merryl Tisch, Regents chancellor. So the test will get harder, even though that’s likely to depress rising graduation rates.

Seventy-five percent of New York City’s high school graduates who go on to City University require remedial math and/or English classes, Tisch complains. The class of 2011 will face a higher standard.

In 2009,  59 percent of city students passed the Regents and earned a diploma, up from 46.5 percent in 2005. That’s likely to decline.

Tisch also wants to end the practice of letting teachers grade their own students’ Regents exams. By the 2011-12 school year, all exam answer sheets will be scanned and submitted to the state for analysis. That “could include checking for suspicious erasures or unusual answer clusters that may suggest cheating,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Isn’t this true for most high school “top” diplomas? There are students that may do well in class but do not do well on the ACT (or SAT) which requires them to take remedial classes. So…what is wrong with the English and math classes these kids take? Ineffective teachers, inexperienced teachers, lack of subject matter expertise teachers, poor standardized test taking abilities, grade inflation, the students did not have a solid math foundation in middle and elementary school? Maybe the granting of these “college ready” diplomas need to be tied to ACT or SAT scores…

  2. It’s worse in New York State.

    Up until a few years ago, there were essentially 3 tiers. There was the district level “basic” diploma. Then there was the Regents diploma, which denoted a higher standard. This diploma was to certify “college-readiness”. Above that, districts could also offer an honors diploma.

    The NYS Department of Education then did away with the district level diplomas. The Regents standard was now the same standard that everyone from a future neurosurgeon to a child with severe mental retardation had to meet. With no separate option for those students not able to meet high standards, the failure rates skyrocketed, and the standards have been diving to attempt to meet them.

    I’m proud to say that my own alma mater, Canisius High School, is still accredited through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and is thus exempt from Regents idiocy.

  3. Look, a severely retarded student should NOT get a diploma. A student who is functionally illiterate or innumerate should NOT get a diploma. A diploma, even a basic diploma, should mean something.

    Otherwise, what’s the point?

  4. SuperSub says:

    It’s funny how NY State Ed is essentially trying to blame the failure of students to succeed in college on individual schools as opposed to their boneheaded realignment of standards and tests.

    Prior to 2000, high school math was divided into 3 courses – I (algebra), II (geometry), and III (trig)… and each course had its own Regents exam. With the realignment, State Ed changed it to 2 one and a half year courses (A and B) that each contained a mixture of algebra, geometry, and trig. Students had difficulty on the exams because the courses stretched over one and a half years and the mixing of the three math types prevented them from mastering any. Failures shot through the roof, and the state curved the exam results to allow test-takers to actually pass. They recently switched back to a three-year system that is very similar to the old system, but is now lacking a good portion of the content.

    Ditto on the Living Environment Regents (LE is NY’s ‘special’ term for biology). Students now learn a fraction of the content that they used to under the old standards, but still do abysmally on the exam because the reading difficulty of the test shot up to the point of where teachers often need to discuss questions to understand what is being asked. I have had students who could practically host their own science show on TV (a la Bill Nye), yet have done poorly on the exam because they are being challenged by non-science vocabulary and grammar that they don’t typically see until their upperclassmen years or college. It also doesn’t help that recent LE Regents exams have included flawed questions and that multiple answer keys provided by State Ed have had scientifically incorrect answers.

    While I do not in any way condone cheating, likely much of what NYSED might consider to be grading irregularities on the LE and other Regents are answers teachers have been forced to accept because the answers are logical and academically valid whether or not NYSED realizes it.

  5. BlameGame says:

    They’re raising the Regents bar by cutting the ELA down to a one-day imitation RCT exam next year?

  6. Why not acknowledge that “high school graduate” doesn’t mean “college ready”?

    We should have at least three tiers of diplomas:

    1) Honors–equivalent to, say, 550 or higher on SATs (which in and of itself would be unacceptable, given the achievement gap, but it’s reasonable)

    2) Standard–functional, but not ready for college. In math, only reasonably competent at algebra and geometry, nothing beyond that.

    3) Remedial–skills at 8th grade level.

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    Why not acknowledge that ‘high school graduate’ doesn’t mean ‘college ready’?

    I think that part of the problem is that the college remedial math classes are re-teaching 9th grade math (algebra) or even 7th and 8th grade math (exponents, percents). If high school graduate doesn’t mean (in part) ‘learned high school math in high school’, the one reasonable question is: What does it mean?

    Alternately: What is the minimal amount of knowledge that we expect a high school graduate to posses?

    I think that a large portion of the problem is that the kids may have passed the course and even the test in high school, but it was very much a “learn it for the test, then forget it” exercise. With a possibly several year gap (say math in 9th and 10th grade, no math in 11th and 12th) between the high school math and the college remedial math test, the “learn it and forget it” really makes it clear that the graduate UPON GRADUATION pretty much had 8th grade math skills. Or less.

    So, again, is the high school diploma supposed to mean?

    -Mark Roulo

  8. but it was very much a “learn it for the test, then forget it” exercise

    These aren’t the kids that are the problem. I agree they exist, and that more robust tests would catch them up.

    The kids that are in Algebra II or higher, with skills of a struggling sixth grader, are the kids I’m talking about.

  9. Mark Roulo says:

    These aren’t the kids that are the problem. I agree they exist, and that more robust tests would catch them up.

    Actually, I don’t think more robust tests will help. What might help would be a more low-grade but long-term emphasis on the subject. Reviewing the basics of algebra-I three times a year for a few weeks during 10th, 11th and 12th grade might help make the skill permanent (assuming that the kids actually learned it the first time, of course).

    If the problem is that kids “are in Algebra II or higher, with skills of a struggling sixth grader” then I’m not sure more testing of any sort is going to matter. Don’t the teachers already *know* that these kids don’t know the pre-reqs? My guess is that they do and that the system is currently structured so that little can be done. I don’t see how tests can help here …


    -Mark Roulo

  10. SuperSub says:

    Mark –
    Under the old three year Regents system, the courses each did a good job of reinforcing to ensure that previous content stuck. Course I (Algebra) reinforced basic graphing and computation skills, Course II (Geometry) reinfored Algebra, graphing, and computation, and Course III (Trig) reinforced them all. Most students in my school ended up taking a fourth non-Regents course… either Pre-Calc or a lower-level application course.
    With the 2001 realignment, that natural progression was spoiled as content was grouped by application use as opposed to skill set. Students learned to use their skills in a narrowly-defined set of problems and the constant switching between topics prevented anything from sticking. The only way that State Ed could say that students ‘mastered’ the material was by curving the test results.

  11. Roger Sweeny says:

    I think that a large portion of the problem is that the kids may have passed the course and even the test in high school, but it was very much a “learn it for the test, then forget it” exercise.

    According to my students, every course in high school is like this. And I think they are largely right.

    I warn them at the beginning of the year that I very deliberately try to make my course not like that–but I’ll sometimes get a reflexive “but we did that last chapter [or last term or even (gasp!) ‘in September’].

  12. allen Chapman says:

    If there is a problem with achievement it is not attributable to what happens in 8th grade or higher. It starts much earlier than that. Motivated kids learn almost nothing in NY grade schools and children from academically inclined families are handicapped more than those from schools that don’t value education. Kids ill prepared to start kindergarten at least stand some chance to learn something while the others won’t for years. The early grades are repetitive and bright kids are forced to tread water for years. Consider how telling time from a clock is taught (and I have the sheets for about 5 years of this. K they learn what a clock face is. 1st they learn how the numbers are arranged (after a thorough review of what the face looks like, of course). In 2nd they review again and add that the face has 2 hands and placement of the hands for O:clock and half past. In 3rd they again review and add the 45 and 15. In 4th they are finally expected to be able to tell time. Unlike most European and Asian systems, the US takes a sweeping broad band approach to teaching–loads of topics at a very superficial level. They tend to spend three times as much time on review as they do on adding new material–as opposed to teaching fewer topics to completion. Teach the kids how to read the clock in kindergarten-spend the time necessary so they can do it completely (figuring understanding will come later) and then move on. By the time they sit for Earth Science, they will have had a tiny taste of each topic each year and have no depth even after 8 years of it. Enough already!

  13. I am an 11th grade student. I studyed for months for the algebra 2/trig regents and my marks dont show this. Im an amzing student in English an my marks reflect that. maybe there should be some way to let students take harder tests in the subjects which they excel in and take an easer test in the subjects which are harder for them. this is like the story of the squirrel passing flying.

  14. A major problem is the poorly designed politically correct Math Regents starting from Math A/B to the new exam. Time to take the test construction back from the “experts” and return it to the teachers — and base the exam on curriculum.


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