Don’t Throw Away the Regents Review Books Yet?
In the fall of 2019 I attended a regional meeting to discuss a major initiative: Graduation Measures, a comprehensive review of graduation requirements including student assessment and at the top of unspoken list for schools: Is the state abandoning Regents examinations? I sat at a table with a high school superintendent, a principal and a few parents, we chatted, reported back, no one from the State answered the future of Regents examinations question.
A few months later, COVID, and a lengthy hiatus, in December, 2022, State Ed selected 64 folks: parents, teachers, school leaders, college folk, advocacy organizations, a wide range who met monthly and concluded with a July retreat. Unfortunately the State bypassed the Open Meetings law, the meetings were not live-streamed and the Commission did not report on the progress of their work. Rumors, not surprisingly, the Commission was divided over many issues.
State Education reported at the November Board of Regents meeting,
The recommendations in this report reflect the work and best thinking of the Commission. While the Department supported the Commission throughout the process, Department staff intentionally and transparently did not provide suggestions or opinion in order to preserve the integrity of the final recommendations.
(Not really, an organization selected by the Department provided a detailed report on Performance Tasks and other alternatives to the current required standardized tests. See here. I would argue the staff “intentionally … provided suggestions …”)
After the recommendations are presented to the Regents, the Department will begin its work to develop proposed guidance, programmatic, and regulatory changes to address the goals and priorities of the Regents related to this initiative. Over the course of several months, Commission members developed, and ultimately advanced, fifty-nine preliminary recommendations aligned with the four priority areas. Next, Commission members voted electronically on the preliminary recommendations by assigning a rating of “high priority,” “medium priority,” “low priority,” or “do not support.” Thirty-seven preliminary recommendations were identified by at least seventy-five percent (75%) of members as a high or medium priority for them. Those thirty-seven recommendations were then combined into the following twelve recommendations:
1. Replace the three diploma types with one diploma, with the option to add seals and endorsements. [Why is this the # 1 recommendation?]
2. Include civic responsibility (ethics); cultural competence; financial literacy education; fine and performing arts; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) credit(s); and writing, including writing skills for real-world scenarios in diploma credit requirements. [Current diploma credit requirements include courses in Economics, Participation in Government Art or Music, are we adding additional courses?];
. 4. Move to a model that organizes credit requirements— including content area credit requirements— into larger categories (e.g., mathematics and science courses could be included in the “STEM” category) [A student could take fewer Math and more science? Why?]
. 5. Reduce and/or modify diploma assessment requirements to allow more assessment options. [Like replace Regents with performance-based assessments?]
6. Create state-developed rubric(s) for any performance-based assessments allowed as an option to satisfy the diploma assessment requirements. [The unresolved issue: inter-rater reliability]
7. Create more specific, tailored graduation requirements to address the unique circumstances of certain groups of students (e.g., non-compulsory age students, newcomer students, refugee students). [Called “superintendents’ determination”]
8. Provide exemptions from diploma assessment requirements for students with significant cognitive disabilities and major life events and extenuating circumstances (e.g., medical conditions, death of a family member, trauma prior to sitting for a required exam). [Again a superintendents’ determination” with more specificity required]
9. Pursue regulatory changes to allow the discretion to confer high school degrees posthumously. [Baffling]
10. Require all New York State teacher preparation programs to provide instruction in culturally responsive-sustaining education (CRSE) practices and pedagogy [State Ed currently requires the number of college courses by category, is the State mandating content of courses, and is the State referring to the 64 page CRSE framework Read here]
11. Require that professional development plans include culturally responsive-sustaining education practices and pedagogy.
12. Review and revise the New York State learning standards. [And, of course a basic question, doesn’t that mean every time we revise standards we have to establish a new baseline for student assessments?]
Question: Can the State change the testing regulations, or, do the changes require federal approval? As part of ESSA the feds included a section referred to as IADA, Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority, New York State did not apply, State Ed as part of Graduation Measures asked an organization to provide a detailed report on the progress of the Innovative Assessment in other states, the Innovative Assessment states have made the performance-based assessments voluntary and in addition to the current testing requirements.
Apart from the Graduation Measures initiative State Education is implementing a grant from the Carnegie Foundation called PLAN (Read here), Performance-Based Learning and Assessment Networks Program.
Building statewide … … …systems of assessment that draw upon multiple measures, as well as deep knowledge of the role of performance-based learning and assessment (PBLA) in such systems.
PLAN, in year two of a multiple year grant has held a number of meetings, all archived in the PLAN Pilot site above.
Yes, we are edging towards performance-based assessments, the path may be long and twisting and only for cohorts of schools. For many years the New York Performance-Based Consortium, forty schools, mostly in NYC, have received waivers from State Ed, renewed numerous times. (See here), the schools are small high schools with an instructional model substantially different than other schools.
The Consortium Schools are part of the Affinity District, 150 high schools in New York City who work closely with six not-for-profits, who look like Charter Management Organizations, they’re not, the schools are all public schools, many are part of joint Union-Department initiatives allowing wide latitudes in organizational designs.
Norm Fruchter wrote a detailed account of the history and functioning of the Affinity District here, I strongly recommend reading.
Collaboration is the key to effective teaching and learning, a one size fit all model fits no one.
Clusters of schools in New York City and outside of New York City clusters of districts can design student assessment models, within parameters, which meets the needs of their community.
Are we heading in that direction?
I hope so.