Common Core Regents, Our Next Concern

Amid growing concerns over Common Core State Standards across the nation, there has been little talk about the effects the new standards will have on high school students in New York State, as the NYS Regents become fully aligned with the Common Core and the requirements for graduation and receiving a high school diploma become more tedious, but not necessarily better.

The focus has been largely on the NYS tests in grades 3-8, which have no bearing on a student’s report card, promotion, or graduation. For parents, the choice was simple: They exercised their parental rights and “opted out” of these assessments. Record numbers of parents across the state realize that these assessments consume far too much instructional time. They force a teach-to-the-test mentality and narrow curriculum. And they are a narrow and flawed means of gauging academic performance, not to mention an unfair method of determining teacher effectiveness.

When it comes to the Regents, there is no course of action for parents to take. One cannot “opt out” of Regents exams. They are required for graduation in New York State. But we must start a conversation about the ramifications of aligning these assessments to the Common Core and other decisions about cut-off scores that will have a grave affect on our children in years to come.

I spoke with a high school English teacher to get her perspective and to try to understand what is to come. She is very concerned. This is what she told me so far:

As a group, I feel we need to draw attention to the issue of the high school exams.  Statewide, the hue and cry has been about the 3-8 tests and, so far, no one has complained to the legislature about the high school exams.  English teachers have been complaining for a few years at both the NYSEC conference in Albany and the NTI conference through NYSED.  It is time for parents to be educated about this issue.  Math teachers have also been vocal.  The Regents are not interested in hearing our concerns.

Are the Regents exams sacrosanct?  If so, is the format of the CCSS test set in stone?  Does this test actually prepare kids for college and career?  What can be done about the graduation requirements?  What happens to students who can’t pass these exams?

Here is some information about the new ELA Regents (mandatory graduation requirement for the class of 2017 – this year’s 9th grade.)

– the test is a comprehensive exam, therefore it can be given any time grade 9-12.  (It is a school decision.)  Most schools give it at the end of English 11.

– this year the CCSS Regents in ELA is offered in addition to the 2005 ELA Regents.  Schools can elect to offer one or both exams.  The highest score counts for both graduation and teacher evaluation.

– a prototype of the CCSS new exam can be found online at  Scroll down for the link to the sample test questions

– the blueprint for the test calls for eight reading passages (only one of which is required to be fiction).  Students will answer 24 multiple choice questions for the first three passages.  These questions are modeled on the AP exams – meaning all four answers will be correct, but one will be more correct.

– 4 of the reading passages will be thematically connected.  Students must take 3/4 passages and use them to craft an evidence-based argument (complete with footnotes, etc) that develops a claim and acknowledges the counter claim.

– After that, students will read yet another passage (the sampler passage is JFK’s Inaugural Address) and identify the central idea and analyze how the author’s use of one writing strategy (ie: similes and metaphors) develops this central idea

– all of this will be done in 3 hours

– notice there are no essay questions about literature

– all students must pass this exam to graduate.  the RCTs are no longer available for special ed students.  There will still be a safety net for special ed students, but it is much smaller than it has been in past years.

– Each year, for the past several years, the Regents has slowly moved the cut score on the “old” Regents so that it is harder to achieve a passing score.  In the grid that determines the student’s score, it used to be that at least 70 of the grid boxes would result in a grade of 65 or higher.  That has dwindled in the past few years to 57 boxes that generate a score of 65 or better.  Similar things are happening in other Regents exams as well (math, history, science)

– For the future, the proposal is for the passing grade on this exam to be raised to 75 fro the class of 2022.  They want the raise the passing grade on the Algebra Regents to 80.

On June 17, 2014 there will be a Common Sense Education Lobby Day in Albany. The event is sponsored by Assemblyman Ed Ra, with “The Well” inside the NYS Legislature Building reserved for the event. According to the event Facebook page:

“Common Sense Education Day” will include a meet-and greet (rally) at 11am and then we will visit our legislators right there in their offices. All who are planning to attend are encouraged to contact their legislators in advance and make appointments to meet on that day. We will form teams, so no one meets with any legislator alone. The team approach is helpful – for those who have never met with a legislator, it gives them an opportunity to do so for the first time without having to carry the ball on their own. It also allows us to put our “strongest players” in the room with the strongest opposition to our message.

Elected officials pay attention when large numbers of people congregate around an issue. Lobbying is a powerful way of making our message heard. Let’s let them see our numbers and hear our voices!!!

The event promises to bring large numbers of people together to express a variety of educational concerns. Oneonta Area for Public Education is fortunate to have hosted several successful forums over the past year, with many of our policy makers in attendance listening to us discuss problems with the Common Core, high-stakes testing, data collection, and other issues.

Our focus at Common Sense Education Day will be the high school Regents exams. We have an appointment with Assemblyman Clifford Crouch from 12:00-12:30 in his Albany office, 450 LOB (Legislative Office Building). Assemblyman Crouch has been a good listener over the past year and a half. Please won’t you join us to help inform the Assemblyman about our concerns over the future of graduation in New York State?

About Betsy Bloom

Betsy is an Associate Professor of Education at Hartwick College in Oneonta NY. She is also a parent of two, a nine year veteran middle school social studies teacher and the current president of the NYS Foundations of Education Association, an organization dedicated to achieving social justice through public education.
This entry was posted in Events, Statewide news & events, Testing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Common Core Regents, Our Next Concern

  1. dbpigtail says:

    Reblogged this on The Plain Satisfactions.

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