What the Public Should Know
Learn the FACTS about Consortium Schools and the Regents Exams:
Imposing a single set of exams for all students eliminates the two-track system by raising expectations for all students.
Two tracks still exist, but one track consists of students dropping out of school. Imposing a single set of exams for all students has caused the dropout rate to escalate. Students who are perceived as poor test-takers, including pregnant and parenting teens, are being counseled to leave high school, rather than fail the test and lower their school's pass rate.
If some schools are granted a waiver to administer performance assessments instead of Regents exams, all schools will want to use performance assessments. Performance Assessment will become the "escape hatch" for schools that don't want to meet the Regents' standards.
The Consortium's common performance assessment tasks are not an "escape hatch": they both meet and exceed Regents' standards. Performance Assessment is a much more arduous system than administeringand grading standardized exams. Most teachers and school systems will not want to take up this challenge. Just as high-stakes testing creates a test culture in a school, so too performance assessment is embedded in the culture of the school. Rather than becoming an escape hatch, engaging in performance assessment would result in HIGHER standards because the system requires schools to create a more rigorous and engaging environment for students. Isn't that what we want?
Not all Consortium schools are of equal quality. The Regents say they would have allowed some schools in the Consortium to continue the waiver if they would be willing to drop other schools from the Consortium.
Some Consortium schools have been in existence for two decades or more; others are much newer. The more established schools feel an obligation to the newer schools to help them develop a rich, integrated, meaningful system of assessment. All Consortium schools utilize a set of common rubrics to evaluate student work. In addition, the entire Consortium is overseen by the Performance Assessment Review Board, Inc., an independent group of
nationally recognized educators, who monitor the work of the schools to make sure that all are meeting and exceeding state standards. Due to the ongoing monitoring by the PAR Board, some schools have been asked to leave the Consortium because they were not meeting the requirements set both internally by the Consortium and externally by the Board.
Commissioner Mills' "Blue Ribbon Panel" said that the Consortium schools were not meeting state standards and should take all 5 Regents exams.
The Panel recommended a three-year continuation of the waiver, a comparative study of the schools with Regents' schools of matched populations, and an administration of the Math and English exams for study purposes ONLY, not as high-stakes exams.
The Regents exams are a scientific, objective measure of the skills students will need to succeed in college and at work.
Three panels of writers, professors, and college admissions officers, hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation, have looked closely at the exams and found them to be a poor measure of the skills students need to succeed in college. They found errors on the exams themselves, and a misplaced emphasis on exactly the kind of rote, superficial learning and formulaic writing that do not prepare students at all for their college courses. Further, several psychometricians have offered sworn affidavits that the "cut score," or the score that indicates a passing grade on the Regents' exam was arrived at by a method that violated standards and practices of the testing industry. The additional practice of "Component Retesting" allows students to pass a retest with a far lower score than they would have needed to pass the original exam. The scoring range on the retests is compressed from a scale of 0-6 points to 0-4 and 0-2 points. Even a single-sentence response is considered an "essay," and can receive a point; students who answer 15 multiple-choice questions correctly could pass the exam with three such single-sentence "essays."
Passing the Regents exams is the same thing as meeting the state standards.
Many of the state standards are not measured by the exams. For example,the standards for English Language Arts include speaking, but the exams themselves have no oral component. By contrast, all performance assessments require students to present and defend their work orally, a skill they will need to succeed in college and at work. The Rockefeller Panels found that the literary passages on the ELA exam and document questions on the Global Studies exam did not meet commonly understood standards of their respective disciplines. On the ELA, texts were so fundamentally altered from the original as to render them unrecognizable and of poor quality; on the Global Studies exam, the "documents" given to students were often no more than three lines long, stripped of context, completely antithetical to historical method.
James Kadamus of the State Education Department says that "Anyone can get into college, but not all colleges are worth getting into." He alleges that the colleges Consortium students attend are second-rate.
Consortium students regularly attend some of the best public and private colleges and universities in the country, including most CUNY and SUNY schools, as well as colleges like Amherst, Brown, Wesleyan, Swarthmore, and Hampshire.
Commissioner Mills and the Regents say that the waiver granted to Consortium schools was only meant to run for five years and those five years has expired. They also claim that the burden of collecting data on the schools' peformance was placed on the schools themselves, not on the State Education Department.
Commissioner Tom Sobol, who signed the original variance, said in a legal affidavit that the variance was to run for five years.. This study was never done, which is why the State Commissioner's own Blue Ribbon Panelrecommended that it be done now, with the added recommendation that a study ALSO be done of Regents schools with similar populations.
Nationwide, only an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 parents, mostly in California, excused their children from testing last year, largely because states and school districts don't publicize the option. But the relatively small numbers have a disproportionate impact because they are concentrated in certain schools.|