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To: Chancellor Bennett
Members of the Board of Regents
Assemblyman Steve Sanders

From: Committee of Concerned Educators

Re: USING MULTIPLE MEASURES: A Pilot Program For State Accountability

The Commissioner notes in Assessment Review and Action on Students' Performance Results for the 2000 Cohort that we must build on "national research on high school reform" that is "scientifically based." In fact, researchers have been conducting systematic studies on high school reform for some time. Their findings clearly reveal that the most effective educational outcomes are achieved by using multiple measures of assessment.

Thus, we urge the Board of Regents to endorse a policy that embeds multiple measures assessment in New York State's accountability system and allows greater flexibility for students to demonstrate high standards. We call on the Board of Regents to implement such a policy for the Academic Year 2005-2006 and forward. An initial number of schools- those in the NY Performance Standards Consortium, a selection of ELL and vocational technical schools - could pilot such a policy. Schools selected would provide annual reports to their school communities, local districts and the State Education Department.

Research Findings

On January 10, 2005 , nationally recognized educational researchers - Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Dr. Michelle Fine, and Dr. Joe DiMartino - presented to members of the Board of Regents and Education Chair Steven Sanders the kind of scientifically based review of state student assessment policies called for by Commissioner Mills.

The researchers reviewed state assessment practices and contrasted New York State data with that of other states. Of particular significance were those states that have achieved better graduation results than New York. Four states (Wisconsin, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut*) using a multiple measures approach to graduation were cited as maintaining or improving their graduation rate (above 73 percent).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (viewed nationally as the most reliable source of graduation rate data), New York's graduation rate has decreased from 61 percent in 1998 to 58 percent in 2001. The researchers also cited studies by the Harvard Civil Rights Project and the Urban Institute indicating that New York State has the lowest graduation rates in the country for black and Hispanic youngsters. (2004)

Dr. Darling-Hammond's research notes that:
"...states which include examinations in their state systems but also use state or local performance measures for the graduation decision, not only keep more students in school, they also show student achievement levels above the national average." *
Multiple Measures Approaches to High School Graduation: A Review of State Student Assessment Policies. (pg 7)

A Proposal for a Pilot Group of Schools

The multiple measures assessment proposal incorporates the best thinking of researchers and psychometricians. The proposal calls for a multiple measures approach to graduation requirements in New York State, including both tests and performance assessments.

The proposal recommends that:

  • Students take the ELA and Math Regents tests (or an appropriate equivalent). This would fulfill the requirements of NCLB**.
  • Local options be used to assess other curricular areas. These could include:
    1] existing Regents examinations or,
    2] performance assessments which include student work, exhibitions, demonstrations, oral presentations, Regents portfolios or,
    3] a combination of performance assessments and examinations.

Additional indicators could include:
  • course grades
  • attendance
  • teacher recommendations

Each of the pilot schools will be required to submit detailed information on student persistence, drop out rates, post graduate plans and persistence in higher education after the first year (for those in higher education).

In addition, to maintaining rigor, validity, and reliability, a state Assessment Quality Assurance Panel that includes national experts in curriculum and assessment would be established to first approve and then monitor local alternatives. Professional development is regarded as an integral part of such a proposal.

The local option proposal is regarded as an essential component of the appeals process outlined by the SED. We believe that this proposal satisfies the State's desire to maintain standards and our schools' commitments to quality education and public accountability. We look forward to your response.

*Connecticut's assessment is required of all public high school students in Connecticut and it is taken into account in graduation decisions, but it is not by itself a graduation requirement. Districts must establish graduation requirements that include local performance assessments and a means to incorporate the results from state tests. Each local and regional board of education must 1) specify the basic skills necessary for graduation; 2) include a process for assessing a student's level of competency in such skills, which includes local performance assessments, and 3) provide a course of study to assist students who have not successfully completed the assessment criteria to reach a satisfactory level of competency prior to graduation." Multiple Measures Approaches to High School Graduation: A Review of State Student Assessment Policies. pg 9.

** It's important to note that NCLB does not require that the assessment tools be high stakes tests.

Committee of Concerned Educators
175 West 93rd Street: PHA
New York, New York 10025

New York State students in independent, private schools are not required to take and pass the Regents exams in order to graduate. In fact, these schools refuse to administer the Regents exams because they would be forced to teach toward these tests and to abandon their own rich curricula.
NY Times, November 24, 1999