New York Sees a Spike in Regents Exam Failures Five Years After Common Core

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY. Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA)
New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

David Rubel, an education policy consultant, released a report that showed a spike in the failure rate of New York students on their math and ELA Regents Exam. This is five years after Common Core.

In his summary he writes:

It’s now five years since the Algebra 1 (Common Core) Regents and Exam was first used in June of 2014. After five years of a transition period, schools should be in a much stronger position to teach the Common Core (now known as the Next Generation Learning Standards). However, this year’s test results show a surprising shift downward with thousands more students failing the Algebra 1 Common Core Regents Exam. At the very least, the number of failing students should stay comparable with pre-Common Core Integrated Algebra Exam. There was also a significant increase in the number of students failing the ELA Regents exam. 

With the math exam he notes:

For reasons that have yet to be determined, last year’s Regents Exam was tougher for thousands of high school students. 13,074 more students failed the Algebra 1 exam this year than in 2016-17. The scoring system did not change so other factors must be in play. Two high need risk groups, students with disabilities and English Language Learners saw more students failing. 61% of students with disabilities group and 60% of English Language Learners are now failing the Algebra 1 Regents exam. Passing a math Regents exam is a requirement for graduation.

Regarding the ELA exam he wrote:

12,456 more students failed the ELA Regents in 2017-18 than in 2016-17; and increase of 6%. For the first two years of the ELA Common Core Exam, the test scores were impressive with a stable first year (2015-16) test results and even less students failing in the second year of test administration (2016-17) than with the old Comprehensive Regents exam. However, the 2017- 18 test scores have thrown a wrench into the transition. The increase in the failing students occurred with both students with disabilities (3,955) and English Language Learners (2,699). 49% of SWD students and 64% of ELL students failed the ELA Regents this year.

I can’t say that I am surprised. NAEP scores have been stagnant and there has been a widening gap between low and high performing students. ACT math scores have declined as well.

HT: The Hechinger Report

New York Schools Mandated to Teach Mental Health

A new law went into effect this summer that impacts elementary, middle, and high schools in New York State this fall.

Specifically the law states:

All schools under the jurisdiction of the department shall ensure that their health education programs recognize the multiple dimensions of health by including mental health and the relation of physical and mental health so as to enhance student understanding, attitudes and behaviors that promote health, well-being and human dignity.

NBC News reports:

The law gives the latitude to individual districts, schools and classrooms to decide, as long as they meet some broad parameters, how to design curricula and lesson plans that cover mental health (as is the case for all subjects — including alcohol, drug and tobacco abuse and the prevention and detection of certain cancers, the only two other topics included in the education law that are required to be taught as part of health education in the state of New York).

But New York schools aren’t exactly being left on their own to figure out how to add mental health education to their teaching agendas.

After the changes to the law were passed in 2016, the New York State Education Department, along with the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Mental Health Association of New York State, Inc. (MHANYS), established the New York State Mental Health Education Advisory Council in August 2017 to provide guidance to schools on how to add mental health to the curricula.

The New York State Education Department in July released a comprehensive guide for schools

In that framework included the state’s framework for mental health instruction for schools to use as they develop their curriculum. You can read below:

Having worked with high-risk children and youth for a better part of two decades I understand, probably more than most, mental health issues that exist among children and adolescents. 

I can also see this going wrong any number of ways that include an erosion of parental rights and consent.

Schools are academic institutions, not mental health resource centers.

Are you a parent in New York State? Have you seen the impact of this law in your child’s school? 

Newsday: New York Parents Must Have Students Take Assessments

New York State Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Newsday, a newspaper and news site in New York State, declared the war over various education reforms over in an editorial this week.

They wrote:

The war over Common Core standards that had gotten so heated it spawned a statewide political party actually ended fairly well by 2017. As students, teachers and parents got used to the new curricula and learning methods that had initially been enacted too fast and with too little training, the state replaced the name Common Core with “Next Generation English Language Arts and Mathematics Learning Standards.” It also allowed public comment on the standards, tweaking them but leaving them largely intact.

The fight to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations, though, is now dead. State law says the scores have to be part of the evaluations, but there is a moratorium on enforcing that rule which will almost certainly be extended until the law connecting student scores to teacher evaluations is repealed.

And any forceful attempt to make school districts push kids to sit for those tests appears to be dead, too. The state Board of Regents this week retreated on its plan to divert a portion of schools’ federal funds toward encouraging test participation at high opt-out schools, and to make those schools craft plans to reduce those rates.

Regarding the war over Common Core, unfortunately, I think too many, including members of the media, have bought into the rebrand. And that is what it is, a rebrand. Those who speak out against the standards will have to point out the specific problems within New York’s academic standards such as the standards of mathematical practice remain the same, and New York’s ELA standards still have an undue emphasis on informational text.

As for the other changes they mention, those are positive developments, and I hope they stay in place. That said, how Newsday finished the editorial irked me.

It’s good news that the state has managed to keep a set of rigorous standards to ensure students are ready for work or college when they graduate high school. But the unions and Regents who claim teachers can be properly and rigorously evaluated without tests scores must craft a plan to do so. And parents and teachers, having won the battle to decouple standardized tests and teacher evaluations, must have the kids take the tests. 

They buy into the same talking points that education reformers have foisted. No, New York’s standards are not rigorous. No, they will not ensure students are ready for work or college. That is propaganda. New York’s tweaked standards and Common Core does not have any data that backs up those claims.

Then the statement that parents “must have kids take the tests.” Must? No, the point is that parents, not the state, not the school district, and indeed not the editorial board of Newsday, decides what is best for their student. 

What hubris.

New York City Mayor: Scrap the Specialized High School Placement Assessment

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote an op/ed for Chalkbeat over the weekend that called for changes in how New York City Schools assesses middle school students for placement in their eight advanced placement high schools. He said the high-stakes placement assessment that is used has disproportionately kept black and Latino students from being placed in those high schools and it needs to be scrapped.

He wrote:

I visit schools across this city and it never fails to energize me. The talent out there is outstanding. The students overflow with promise. But many of the smart kids I meet aren’t getting in to our city’s most prestigious high schools. In fact, they’re being locked out.

The problem is clear. Eight of our most renowned high schools – including Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School – rely on a single, high-stakes exam. The Specialized High School Admissions Test isn’t just flawed – it’s a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence.

If we want this to be the fairest big city in America, we need to scrap the SHSAT and start over.

Let’s select students for our top public high schools in a manner that best reflects the talent these students have, and the reality of who lives in New York City. Let’s have top-flight public high schools that are fair and represent the highest academic standards.

He said New York City Schools would start to open more spaces in these high schools for economically disadvantaged students and minority students who missed the cut-off.

Starting in September 2019, we’ll expand the Discovery Program to offer 20 percent of specialized high school seats to economically disadvantaged students who just missed the test cut-off.

This will immediately bring a wider variety of high-performing students, from a wider number of middle schools, to the specialized high schools. For example, the percentage of black and Latino students receiving offers will almost double, to around 16 percent from around 9 percent. The number of middle schools represented will go from around 310 to around 400.

He said he was going to work with the New York Legislature to replace the assessment with a different placement process:

For a deeper solution, we will fight alongside our partners in the Assembly and Senate to replace the SHSAT with a new admissions process, selecting students based on a combination of the student’s rank in their middle school and their results in the statewide tests that all middle school children take.

Read his entire op/ed.

Having Elementary Teachers Specialize Probably Isn’t a Good Thing

Chalkbeat reported on a New York City Schools initiative to have more elementary school teachers specialize in math; an effort geared toward making more students ready to take Algebra.

Two recent studies released, Chalkbeat notes, indicate this will likely hurt more than it helps.

Chalkbeat‘s Alex Zimmerman writes:

The expansion comes as accumulating research casts doubt on the approach. A study recently published by the peer-reviewed American Economic Review found that students perform worse on both high- and low-stakes tests after elementary school teachers specialized in subjects including math.

To measure the effects of reconfiguring elementary school teaching, Roland Fryer, an economics professor at Harvard who has studied schools extensively, randomly assigned 23 Houston elementary schools to departmentalize instruction in math, science, social studies, and reading.

At those schools, principals assigned teachers to teach what observations and statistical measures suggested were their strongest subjects. But after two years of specialized instruction, students lost over a month of learning compared with their peers who attended schools that did not make the changes.

Zimmerman discusses another study:

A second recent study based on statewide data from North Carolina also points to the potential pitfalls of specialization. That research, which has not been formally peer reviewed, looked at teachers who transitioned from being general classroom teachers to specialists and compared the effect on student test scores.

While the researchers found some positive effects in science, specialization hurt student learning in many subjects and grade levels — including fifth grade math.

“This is the second study — in different locations and with different research designs — to show some negative results for subject-area specialization,” write Kevin Bastian, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, and Kevin Fortner, of Georgia State University. “It is fair to conclude that specialization is not yet leading to its theorized payoff.”

Read the whole thing.

NYC Schools told Zimmerman that what those studies found is not true in New York City, and they cited a non-peer reviewed study whose author said was theoretical. (This is what “evidence-based” apparently now means.)

Another instance of dataless reform, but sure, jump right in.

NY Assembly Passes Bill to Decouple Assessments from Teacher Evaluations

Last week, I wrote that the New York Assembly introduced a bill that would decouple assessments from teacher evaluations. This week, they passed that bill 131 to 1.

WAMC reports:

Opposition to the former Common Core standards and the associated tests became a rare bipartisan issue at the Capitol. Assemblyman Steve Otis, a Democrat from Westchester, voted for the repeal.

“We heard from school superintendents, school board members, teachers, parents, the same message all united,” Otis said. “They didn’t think the state tests were helping them teach kids.”

Assemblyman Fred Thiele, a Republican from Long Island, says the change would restore local control to school districts.

It now heads to the Senate where there is momentum to pass this bill.

In the Senate, Senator Jim Tedisco, a former teacher, is sponsoring a similar measure in the state Senate. Tedisco, a Republican from Schenectady, says the list of supporters has grown to 38 senators, but there is still some opposition to putting the bill on the floor for a vote.

“We’re going to work hard to, no pun intended, educate my colleagues on the importance of not using a standardized test as the Holy Grail for evaluating kids,” Tedisco said. “Or by extension evaluating teachers.”

I wrote last week:

Common Core is still present in New York State regardless of the recent revisions of their state standards. In 2016, The New York State Education Department adjusted their statewide assessment to encourage “opt-ins” as the state has seen the most student opt-outs of any in the nation and that did not change in 2016 as some deemed the 3rd-grade assessment to be age-inappropriate.

This bill will, at the very least, ensure teachers that they won’t have to teach to the test in order to help their standing with evaluations. Also, it is true that some students just don’t test well. That does not mean they are not learning. I also hope that it will reduce potential pressure parents may receive from their local school districts if they decide to opt their student out.

My thoughts toward this bill haven’t changed. This is a good development, but we’ll have to wait and see how much impact it will make in the classroom. If lawmakers think this will curb parental efforts to opt-out of assessments they will probably be disappointed.

As I also said last week, the New York Legislature needs to pass a bill affirming assessment opt-out.

NY Assembly Introduces Bill to Bar Using Assessment Scores on Teacher Evaluations

Photo Credit: Jim Bowen (CC-By-2.0)

A bill was introduced Thursday in the New York Assembly that would bar schools from using standardized assessment scores on teacher evaluations.

The New York Post reports:

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie introduce the bill late Thursday and Cuomo’s office released a statement indicating the governor was on board.

“We have been working the Legislature and education community for months to address this issue and would like to reach a resolution this session‎,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.

The announcement came hours after Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s Democrtic primary opponent, called for a repeal of the evaluation system.

Eliminating the mandate would be a victory for the teachers’ union, which has long opposed the use of state English and math exams for grades 3 to 8 exams to rate teachers.

“It has become increasingly clear that standardized tests do not fully account for the diversity of our student populations,” said Speaker Carl Heastie.

Read the rest.

Common Core is still present in New York State regardless of the recent revisions of their state standards. In 2016, The New York State Education Department adjusted their statewide assessment to encourage “opt-ins” as the state has seen the most student opt-outs of any in the nation and that did not change in 2016 as some deemed the 3rd-grade assessment to be age-inappropriate.

This bill will, at the very least, ensure teachers that they won’t have to teach to the test in order to help their standing with evaluations. Also, it is true that some students just don’t test well. That does not mean they are not learning. I also hope that it will reduce potential pressure parents may receive from their local school districts if they decide to opt their student out.

We are still waiting for a bill from the New York Legislature that affirms a parent’s right to do just that.

Paper and Pencil Test Administration Is Not Impacted By Cyberattacks

Last week, seven states who contract with Questar for their statewide computer-based assessments were subject to a cyberattack.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle reported:

New York was one of seven states earlier this week whose student tests were hit by what was reportedly a “deliberate attack” on the computer system operated by Questar, an outside vendor.

On Tuesday, New York was one of the states whose students in grades 3-8 were taking computerized English tests, but were interrupted by what the Tennessee education commissioner called a “cyberattack.”

New York education officials confirmed Thursday that its computerized exams suffered the same problems Tuesday as other states, but Questar — the Minneapolis-based company that administers the tests — has yet to detail the cause of the problems.

The latest issues came after computer problems with the tests last week.

“The same issue that affected other states caused the system in New York to experience sporadic technical issues at a small number of schools on Tuesday morning,” Emily DeSantis, spokeswoman for the state Education Department, said in a statement.

“Questar confirmed that the origin of the issue was external to its servers. Questar reports there is no indication that any data from New York was accessed at any time. Testing resumed Tuesday after the system was reset.”

We’ve been concerned about computerized testing and its accompanying data security issues. Paper and pencil tests are simply more secure. They also will not face the possibility of disruption because of a cyberattack. Now if they upload scores and student information in an online database they still pose a data security risk, but they don’t have to.

Simply put there are far, far fewer problems with pencil and paper tests.

Is Common Core Really Gone in New York?

The Albany Times Union bid the Common Core State Standards good bye as the New York State Board of Regents officially adopted the Next Generation Learning Standards on Monday, but are they really gone? The standards had been up for public review and comment throughout May.

New York State Education Department started the review process in 2015 and began to revise the standards. The department claims the standards were revised through a collaborative effort with teachers, parents, and other stake holders. How much that was really done I don’t know. I know I trust educrats about as far as I can throw them.

“The standards we adopted today continue to be rigorous, to challenge New York’s students to do more and to prepare them for life in the 21st century,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said in a released statement. “Throughout the entire process, we worked collaboratively and transparently, receiving valuable input from educators and parents, as well as experts in teaching English language learners, students with disabilities and our youngest learners. And we will continue to listen as the standards are implemented. We are committed to getting this right for our kids and evolving the standards over time as necessary to do that.”

“We have developed an implementation plan that gives teachers and students the time they’ll need to adjust to the revised learning standards,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia stated. “Our implementation timetable allows for professional development and curriculum development to occur before any student takes a State assessment based on the new standards. That’s the fair and smart thing to do for our teachers and our students.”

We noted some of the changes New York said they made to the standards here. How different are they really?

J.R. Wilson, a math teacher and advocate here at Truth in American Education, said New York’s math standards did not change much. He did a side-by-side review of the 2nd-grade math standards, as well as, a spot check of specific math standards in grades 4, 5, and 6.

“A side by side of the NY standards and CCSS-M for second grade shows they are basically identical to the CCSS0-M.  Grade 2 shows some minor word changes, apparently for clarification, but no substantial changes. NY’s 4.NBT.B.4 reads, Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using a standard algorithm. This is not the same as the CCSS 4.NBT.4 standard, which says, “using the standard algorithm.” The same thing is done with standard 5.NBT.B.5 for multiplication and standard 6.NS.B.2 for division.   This seemingly minor word change has major implications and may have significantly different interpretations by different practitioners and may result in considerably different classroom instruction,” he said.

“The NY Standards for Mathematical Practice and corresponding narratives are identical to the CCSS-M,” he added.

Essentially, as far as math is concerned, they just changed the name and didn’t address the problems with the Common Core Math Standards.

Taking a quick look at New York’s new ELA standards the Reading Anchor Standards 1-7 were taken verbatim from Common Core. Anchor Standard 8 was shortened, and Anchor Standard 9 was rewritten.  They eliminated CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 which reads, “Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.”

There is more change with the writing anchor standards. The first three writing standards are practically identical to Common Core. Anchor Standard 4 and 5 were completely rewritten. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 was eliminated, it reads, “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.”

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 was simplified. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 was moved to become Standard 5 under “Type Texts and Purposes” in the New York Standards instead of falling under research. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 was eliminated.

The Speaking and Listening Anchor Standards kept Common Core language verbatim. The Language anchor standards are exactly the same as well.

New York adds prior to their list of standards a “guidance and support” section, they discuss the range of student reading experiences that includes examples of the types of literature and informational text each grade will read. They discuss the text complicity expectations for each grade, as well as, sections addressing English Language Learners/Multilingual Learners and Students with Disabilities.

Looking at the Kindergarten Literature Standards they have mainly been tweaked from Common Core. Here is one example:

New York KR1: Develop and answer questions about a text. (RI&RL)

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.1: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Here is a complete rewrite:

New York KR4: Identify specific words that express feelings and senses. (RI&RL)

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.4: Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

Ultimately, the revision of New York’s ELA standards does not eliminate the chief problem inherent in Common Core and that is the emphasis on informational text.

In a nutshell, this effort amounts to nothing more than a rebranding of Common Core.

New York State’s Revised Standards Up for Public Comment

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY. Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA)

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The New York State Education Department last week announced that their revised standards are online and that they will take public comment on the revisions until June 2nd. The revised standards are now called the Next Generation English Language Arts and Mathematics Learning Standards.

You can read the standards and leave comments here. The State Board of Regents is expected to vote on the standards in June.

Here is how the NYSED described how Common Core ELA standards were revised:

  • Add Practices to Foster Lifelong Readers and Writers to ensure students become lifelong learners who can effectively communicate. The BOCES Staff and Curriculum Development Network drafted these practices to help students exemplify and foster strong reading and writing habits from the early years through adulthood;
  • Merge the Reading for Information and Reading for Literature Standards to reduce repetitive standards, streamline classroom instruction and curriculum development, and ensure a healthy balance of both types of reading across all grades. The standards also encourage the use of a variety of texts to balance literary and informational reading and to ensure students read both full-length texts and shorter pieces, as well as to encourage reading for pleasure. Specific reading selections remain local decisions to be chosen by local educators;
  • Convene the New York State Early Learning Task Force to discuss concerns around the P-2 grades, including standards, program decisions, social-emotional needs, and how the content areas/domains work together in the early grades.  Grade-specific changes and additions were made to provide a strong emphasis on the whole child.  The Task Force reviewed and provided feedback on the standards.  The Task Force continues to meet and now is working on recommendations to develop resources and guidance to implement the new standards for educators and parents, including resources on professional development for teachers, P-12 school supports, child development, and instructional practice, including play as an instructional strategy;
  • Revise Every Grade’s Reading Expectations for Text Complexity to clarify expectations over multiple grades. A text complexity section is also added to the introduction to underscore the importance of reading different types of texts with varying levels of difficulty;
  • Revise the Writing Standards, so they are more user-friendly for educators to use for curriculum and instruction. In addition to omitting some standards, there are grade-specific changes across the grades to clarify language and ensure writing expectations are clear;
  • Streamline the Anchor Standards based upon comments from educators that the standards were too numerous and at times repetitive. Standards are merged, and included in the practices to foster lifelong readers and writers;
  • Create a NY-Specific Introduction on How to Use the Standards to help inform local curriculum and instruction. While all curriculum decisions are locally made, a set of learning standards cannot be properly used without the necessary guidance. The introduction provides information on how to use the new Lifelong Practices for Readers and Writers, strategies for using the new standards in the classroom, and strategies and supports for applying the standards to students with disabilities and English language learners; and
  • Ensure Literacy is Included in the Content Areas. For example, the committee recommended creating a new document for the Grades 6-12 Literacy in Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Standards. The committees separated the literacy standards for these distinct content areas to better connect the standards directly with these content areas. Also, guidance will be developed to show connections to literacy in other content areas.

Examples of the changes can be found here.

Here are changes they said were made to the Common Core Math standards:

  • Move Standards to Different Grade Levels to improve the focus of major content and skills for each grade level and course; providing more time for students to develop deep levels of understanding of grade-level appropriate content. Based on public and expert comments, major grade movements occurred in statistics and probability at the middle level and in Algebra at the high school level;
  • Provide for Students to Explore Standards to ensure standards are grade-level appropriate. Exploring a standard allows students to be introduced to and learn a concept without the expectation of mastering the concept at that grade level. Exploring the topic recognizes the importance of building a foundation toward mastering the concept in subsequent grades;
  • Clarification of Standards so that educators, students, and parents more clearly understand the expectation, without limiting instructional flexibility. For example, modifications were made to better define the progression of skills and the transition of some of the 18 shared standards between Algebra I and Algebra II;
  • Add and Consolidate Standards to improve coherence, focus and reduce redundancy among grade levels. For example, one additional standard at the Kindergarten level helps solidify pattern recognition and creation from Pre-K to Grade 2.  Also, standards regarding time and money were added and changed to smooth the transition of building these skills at the PreK-Grade 4 level;
  • Maintain the Rigor of the Standards by balancing the need for conceptual understanding, procedural skill, and application.  For example, clearly identify the fluency standards at the high school level; and
  • Create a Glossary of Verbs associated with the mathematics standards. This glossary contains a list of verbs that appear throughout the revised standards recommendations.  For example, the term “explore” is now utilized in some standards to alleviate grade-level appropriateness concerns.

You can read examples of the changes made here.

If you leave a comment with the Department if you would also please leave a comment with us as well. Thanks!