Regent Says Board Favors Setting Aside Math Scores|
By SAM DILLON
New York Times
June 24, 2003
The state education commissioner, Richard P. Mills,
acknowledged yesterday that the Regents examination in
mathematics given last week in high schools across the
state was technically flawed, a state assemblyman who spoke
with him said.
Meanwhile, a member of the Board of Regents said that a
consensus had formed among the 16 members that the results
of the test should be set aside.
The assemblyman, Steven Sanders, chairman of the Education
Committee, said in an interview that Mr. Mills told him
that he would announce a decision today about the flawed
test, which has created a crisis because passing is a
graduation requirement for thousands of students.
Mr. Mills said last week that he was concerned about
reports that many students found the test impossibly hard,
but he had not previously characterized the test as flawed.
His latest remarks were reported on a day when Education
Department officials were frantically trying to assemble
enough data about the test from schools around the state to
evaluate its validity.
"The commissioner concedes that there were problems in the
formulation of parts of this exam," Mr. Sanders said. "He
felt that on several parts of the test there were questions
that they now believe students found confusing."
Mr. Sanders, a Manhattan Democrat, and Assemblyman Richard
L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, urged Mr. Mills to set
aside the results of the examination for students for whom
it posed an obstacle to graduation this week.
That would leave the decision about whether individual
students are allowed to graduate up to their school
principals, who could judge on the basis of their academic
performance in math classes throughout the year.
Mr. Mills heard similar advice yesterday from at least one
member of the Board of Regents, whom he phoned to consult
about how to handle the wave of challenges to the validity
of the test, known as the Math A Regents examination.
The board member, Harry Phillips, said he had urged the
commissioner to cancel the results of the test for all high
school seniors, adding that that was the consensus of the
"I told him that we should let the seniors graduate without
this exam," Mr. Phillips said of his conversation with Mr.
Mills. "I know it would be very unusual for us, but the
outcomes on this test have proven that we made a mistake
and the kids should not suffer for that."
Asked last evening to respond to reports that members of
the State Assembly and the Board of Regents were calling
for cancellation of the test results, Mr. Mills said
through a spokesman that he was looking "with great
urgency" for a resolution. He did not say whether it would
"I am very concerned about reports that many students had
difficulty with this June exam," Mr. Mills said in the
statement. "Throughout the weekend we have heard from lots
of people. I am calling as many as I can myself. At my
request, experts have been collecting and analyzing
Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the Education Department, said
that "tens of thousands" of students took the test last
Tuesday. Mr. Dunn said he could not be more precise.
The test, in four sections, includes algebra and geometry,
along with some questions on probability and statistics.
Mr. Sanders estimated that as many as 3,000 seniors with
academic records that would otherwise allow them to
graduate this week had failed the test.
At Tottenville High School on Staten Island, some 300
students took the test, and only 6 percent passed, the
principal, John P. Tuminaro, said in an interview.
"That's quite shocking," Mr. Tuminaro said. Never in any
previous administration of a Regents math test at his high
school had fewer than 30 percent of students passed it, he
Mr. Tuminaro said that even before any of the students'
test were graded, several Tottenville teachers had pointed
out to him that the test was extraordinarily hard.
"We didn't need to wait for the results," he said. "We knew
it was going to be a disaster."
Mr. Brodsky, who has long campaigned against what he
characterized as the state's growing overreliance on
standardized tests to assess students, said the challenges
to the validity of the Math A test "is the nightmare that
we all feared - that the kids would know the stuff but fail
the test anyway."
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