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Several parents whose children boycotted the state tests this spring complained that their children are being held back and forced to go to summer school—despite their teachers’ recommendations that they be promoted to the next grade.

The parents held a press conference with City Councilman Robert Jackson on steps of the Department of Education headquarters at the Tweed Courthouse on Thursday to protest high-stakes testing and the city’s promotion policies.

This spring, New York State instituted more difficult standardized tests designed to conform to the Common Core Learning Standards. According to DOE policy, children who scored in the bottom 10 percent of test takers would be required to attend summer school unless their teachers prepared a portfolio demonstrating they had mastered the material.

Parents said the schools had difficulty preparing portfolios, and the DOE did not evaluate the portfolios adequately.

“Children [who opt out of testing] are perceived the same as children who received a low score,” even if they are high-performing students,” said Andrea Mata, a public school parent and member of the parent advocacy group Change the Stakes. “This is the second year in a row my child has not been promoted in June.”

Gretchen Mergenthaler said her son opted out of testing in 5th grade to protest what she saw as excessive test prep. Although his teachers put together a portfolio of his work, it soon became clear “the DOE has no clue what a portfolio is. I find it very sad that the teachers who know him and his work best are completely left out.”

Peter Nunez, whose 3rd grade son opted out of testing, stopped by the school to ask about the portfolio procedures. “They waited until just last week to tell us they don’t know how to do the portfolio. But two days ago, we were called in to tell us it was constructed and my son failed the portfolio, [even though he had good grades all years.] We went to the superintendent who said she never received the portfolio.”

DOE spokeswoman Erin Hughes from the DOE disputed the parents’ claims. “We have said all along that no individual student would be disadvantaged because the state made the tests harder. Summer school is important for students who are falling behind and need additional instructional time. This year, the Department has recommended that the students with the bottom 10 percent of scores go to summer school. These students likely scored at a level one on the state’s proficiency scale and will benefit from the extra summer learning.”

 

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 27 June 2013 14:41

Stunned by Regents score? You can appeal

The results of Regents exams came as a nasty shock for some students this year. Students from some of the city's top, screened schools--including Eleanor Roosevelt and NYC Lab School--failed exams or scored far lower than they expected in subjects they usually ace, their parents told Insideschools. 

"The scoring is bizarre -- it doesn't make any sense," said the parent of an "A" student at Lab who scored a 77 on the English Regents. "She had a 98 average going into the Regents and she is exceptionally literate.  She got a 96 on the Global Regents." Because of glitches in scoring, many students did not get the results of the Regents exams until the last day of school, June 26. 

This parent--like many others, as reported by GothamSchools--plans to appeal her daughter's score but couldn't find information on how to do so. Here's how: If you suspect there has been an error in grading the exam, let the principal know as soon as possible--in writing, or via email--that you want the exam to be rescored.

"Students, parents, and school administrators may request an appeal to a Regents exam score if they have a concern about the accuracy of their students results," Simone D'Souza, director of the data and research office at the DOE, wrote Insideschools in an email. "Students and parents should direct appeals through the principal and school administrators direct appeal requests to their superintendent. Any part of an exam can be appealed and exams may be appealed regardless of a student's performance on the test."

Some parents question whether principals will be willing to go through procedures to have a test rescored. After all, a student may retake a test later to try for a higher score, one principal told a parent. That's not an acceptable answer to some parents who feel there may be a larger problem with the exams this year.

"I'm willing to accept that my kid had a bad day," said the Lab parent. "I'm not willing to just sit and take it without the opportunity to review and appeal if warranted."

What are the consequences for low, but passing, scores on Regents exams? Students who score below a 75 on the ELA Regents and lower than 80 on the Algebra Regents may have to take remedial courses if they attend a CUNY school. Outside of New York state, most colleges and universities don't even consider the Regents exams when deciding whether to admit a student. However, parents say there are other considerations.

"It makes your high grades in class seem highly inflated," said the Lab mom. "The lower scores could cost a potential scholarship."

Principals will be able to get copies of the exams, so if you want to review your child's exam, ask your principal to show it to you. If your principal drags his or her feet, you may want to call your superintendent. 

If you want to read the fine print, here's what the DOE's press office sent us, quoting the official Regents Exam Review and Appeals Procedures:

· For exams that were scored non-electronically, schools will have completed exams shipped to them by Friday, June 28.

· For exams that were scored electronically, schools will be able to view completed exams online in early July; more details are forthcoming regarding how principals can access these scores. In addition, schools will receive DVDs with completed exams in July.

Scoring Appeals

In accordance with New York State guidelines, students, parents, and school administrators may request an appeal to Regents exam scores. School administrators should direct appeal requests to their superintendent, and must include the exam subject, administration month and year, impacted student(s)' NYC ID numbers, and rationale for the request. Upon receipt of the request for appeal, the superintendent will determine whether the exam(s) in question will be submitted for rescoring and inform the principal.

· Appeals regarding seniors will be prioritized for review; until the appeal is resolved principals should use the student's original score in making determinations regarding student diploma status and participation in commencement ceremonies.

· For appeals that require rescoring, all rescoring will be completed by licensed, trained teachers from outside the impacted student(s)' school. The rescoring process will be overseen by the superintendent and the DOE's Office of Assessment. Appeals impacting more than five students or five percent of test-takers (whichever is greater) in an exam subject area will be sent to the State Education Department for permission to rescore, in accordance with State guidelines. Please note that per State guidance, the score generated from the rescore is generally considered final, regardless of whether it is higher or lower than the student's original score.

· Once the rescore is completed, the superintendent will communicate the final decision to the principal. The Office of Assessment will update the score(s) in ATS as relevant and communicate the change in score to the State Education Department.

In accordance with New York State guidelines, parents and students may review students' Regents exam answer papers in the presence of the principal or his or her designee, and may receive copies of answer papers on request. If a school receives a request from a parent or student to review a student's exam answer papers, the school should set up time for the student or parent to view the exams once the exams become available.

Note: Regents scoring appeals procedures as outlined above are not the same as appeals of a Regents exam score to earn a diploma. To submit a Regents score appeal to earn a diploma, students must meet very specific eligibility criteria; for more information on eligibility requirements and the procedure for submitting an appeal to the superintendent, see the DOE's High School Academic Policy Reference Guide Appendix C.

Please contact your network assessment point or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.

 

 

Published in News and views

Dear Judy,

We plan to move to NYC from South America this summer. Can we still register our 5-year-old in kindergarten?

DT

Dear DT,

Yes, of course. New York City has a kindergarten place for every child who applies, as long as you can present proof of residence in NYC and of your child's age.  Most districts have zoned elementary schools. You may register at your zoned school once school opens in September. If you already know your address, call 311, or from outside New York, 212-new york to find your zoned school. You may also enter your address in the search box on the Department of Education's website  to find the zoned school for that address. There may be other school options but you are guaranteed a place in your zoned school or one that is nearby, in case the neighborhood school is overcrowded.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 08:36

Regents exams: What you need to know

Today is the first day of Regents exams for New York students; testing continues through June 20. Wondering what it all means? Schoolbook's Patricia Willens interviewed Kim Nauer, who directs the education project at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School and is an Insideschools contributor. Here's the scoop on the current state of the exams and what the future holds. 

"Why does the state give the Regents tests? What is the goal?

We actually have one of the oldest exams systems in the country. It was always meant to be an exit exam so that we know that students have a certain amount of knowledge before leaving high school. And it’s still that. In fact that role has become more important because with the focus on standardized testing the Regents are essentially the standardized tests for high school. They are a series of tests that gives the state confidence that we’re actually graduating students with a minimum level of knowledge to succeed in the world.

What are the minimum and maximum numbers of Regents a student can take?

In New York State there are five Regents exams you are required to take. You must score a 65 or over to pass. The exams include English, which kids typically take in their junior year, one mathematics exam, two social studies exams — Global History/Geography and U.S. History and Government — and then one science exam. Usually, kids take Earth Science or Living Environment. That’s typically what kids do in New York City and they graduate with what’s called a Regents Diploma. They can’t graduate without it. There are exceptions or accommodations for some special education students."

Read the full interview on Schoolbook.

Read more from the education project at the Center for New York City Affairs, including a guide for students and parents filling out the FAFSA.

Published in News and views

A group of 15 principals from across the city announced this week they will no longer be using results from a controversial new state test as part of their middle and high school admissions criteria.

In a letter to parents, students and school communities, the principals — from Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx — explained their dissatisfaction with the Common Core, which they said did not live up to their expectations.

"Inauthentic tests and test prep are taking away time for quality instruction and authentic learning and testing," the letter stated.

Published in News and views

Six mayoral hopefuls showed up on Tuesday night for the Democratic Mayoral Candidate forum for parents at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. Below are highlights of most of the questions asked and answered, reported by Jacquie Wayans, assignment editor at Insideschools and the mother of an Eagle student. The statements are not direct quotes but a synopsis of each candidate's response.

Q1: What would you seek to accomplish within your first 100 days of office?

John C. Liu

Christine Quinn

WilliamThompson

Adolfo Carrion

Bill DeBlasio

Stop the pipeline to prison and create cradle to career instead.

 

Allocate resources so that every neighborhood can have good schools. Extend the school day and expand successful models of existing schools.

 

Choose a chancellor who is an educator. Encourage critical thinking and not memorization for standardized tests. Form a parent academy with a clear message that families should be involved.

Jobs where our children contribute to the economy and climb up the employment ladder.

 

Tax the wealthiest to improve schools. Implement Full day Universal Pre-k. Guaranteed 3 hour after school for middle school.

 

Q2: By show of hands, how many would still support mayoral control?”

All candidates raised their hands, but all said they would implement changes.

Q3: What major initiatives of mayoral control would you keep? What would you get rid of?

Lui

Quinn

Thompson

Carrion

DeBlasio

Albanese

Keep - “The buck stops with the Mayor” but mean it. Rid - shutting down  failing schools and move from testing to teaching.

 

Rid- living and dying by test and move more schools to portfolio model.

Keep - More Eagle Academies (lol). More career & technical education. Rid - from day one – stop closing schools.

 

Keep – accountability and responsibility on mayor. Rid – stop posturing with the teachers union.

 

Keep testing but utilize a better system so that it can be done right. Rid – parents being disrespected.

 

Rid – high stakes testing. Invest in teaching corps with 1 year internship.  Promote pediatric wellness.

 

  • DeBlasio challenged Quinn on the issue of high stakes testing. Click to see NY1 coverage.

Q3: Would you continue to support single gender education?

All said yes.

Q4: Cathy Black – Show of hands that believe next chancellor must be an educator?

All hands went up, except Quinn's.

Quinn

DeBlasio

Liu

Carrion

Thompson

I don’t believe the next chancellor has to be an educator and I will look at all options.

 

Disagreed sharply. We need an educator, the whole system will not respect non-educator.

 

State law requires an educator to be chancellor. As mayor, I would follow state law. Handling schools like  business divisions is not fostering learning .

 

(No longer present. He left early for another panel discussion)

 

We haven’t had a serious discussion on an educational vision and direction in 12 years.

 

 

Q6: Do you support the teacher evaluation system supporting teacher terminations?

DeBlasio

Albanese

Liu

Quinn

Thompson

Yes, I think it is right – the 2 year timeline can work. Bigger challenge is teacher retention.

 

Need to recruit and support teachers. Need to train and use best practices.

 

Teacher evals should be about making teachers better not getting rid of them. The evaluations should be done by educators and not outside consultants. Peer reviews are also important; other teachers don’t want bad teachers in the classroom.

Implement teacher modeling based upon a Texas model.

Use a combination of test, principal evaluations and peer evaluations.

 

 

Q7: Describe a time when the UFT was wrong on a position

See Gotham Schools for a description of their different perspectives. (DeBlasio & Albanese left after that question.)

Q8: Would you continue the co-locations of DOE schools and charters

Liu

Quinn

Thompson

I don’t think the co-locations work. I see stark differences in charters from other public schools and it sends a terrible message to kids. This is classism. It’s playing shell games with our children’s lives.

Both sides say co-locations are not working. I don’t want to eliminate charters as an option, but it is not the answer – however, there is no way to do that without co-location. I would clarify the process and make it transparent.

 

I agree with Liu. Put an end to co-locations. Schools are closed without consultation. Announcements of 72 new schools and only 2 are actually new. Students can’t be second class citizens in their own building.

 

Last Question: Budget – How would you hold the DOE accountable?

Quinn

Thompson

Liu

I’d make the budget municipal-controlled and then parents can get involved and go to the city office to raise their voices. Make a full city agency for balance of power, as every other city agency, and clear reporting.

 

Agrees with Quinn. Would also have annual budgets published and go back to a budget breakdown.

 

I agree but I am more concerned about ending the millions spent at headquarters on no-bid contracts.

 

Each remaining candidate had one minute for a closing statement.

Quinn

Liu

Thompson

I want NYC to have the best schools and best choices. Engage all stake holders in conversation, bringing resources into schools and not central. Take a look at what we are doing well and replicate it. Schedule longer school days, evaluate teachers and move from testing.

I am a product of NYC public schools, came here as an immigrant and didn’t know the language. My wife and my kids are also products of NYC public education. We have some of the best schools in the country and we must reinforce and reinvigorate the system.

Mayor Bloomerg wanted to be known for education. I want NYC to be known as the education city. We must involve all stakeholders again. I would select a chancellor with a background in education. I would move away from this “One size fits all” mentality for our schools. I will not sentence our kids to poverty.

 

Published in News and views

The kids in Manhattan's richest neighborhoods are even more gifted than we imagined two weeks ago--and poor kids still don't make the grade.

At least that's according to the latest results of the city's Gifted & Talent exam--recalculated after Pearson testing company botched the original grading of the exam. 

The new data shows that 40 percent more prospective kindergartners in District 2, which includes the East Side of Manhattan and the West Side south of 59th Street, qualified for citywide gifted programs than they did in April--593 compared to 418. Children must score in the 97th percentile or higher to be considered for a citywide gifted program.

However, there are far more children who qualify than seats: Citywide, 2,771 children made the cut, but there are only about 220 kindergarten seats available in the city's five citywide gifted programs after seats are assigned to qualifying siblings who get first dibs.

The rescoring didn't help many kids in low-income districts. The numbers went ever-so-slightly above the originally reported test scores – just four prospective kindergartners from District 7 in the South Bronx qualified for the citywide program, only two more than Pearson originally reported. In District 23 in the Ocean Hill - Brownsville section of Brooklyn, five qualified, compared to just one two weeks ago.

This year, The DOE adopted a new assessment -- the Naglieri Non-verbal Ability Test -- in an attempt to level the playing field for families who don't have access to tutoring for their four year olds. Children from low-income neighborhoods -- such as D7 and D23 -- are historically under-represented in G&T programs.

In total, 4,700 more children qualified for district or citywide G & T programs than originally reported. Out of the 36,000 kids entering kindergarten through 3rd grade who took the G & T test, 32.4% made the cutoff for either district and citywide programs, according to the DOE’s updated numbers. Children who score in the 90th percentile are eligible for district gifted programs.

Here are detailed break downs of the revised test score results, via the DOE: test scores by district (PDF), test scores compared to last year (PDF), and the district tallies of kids who scored in the 99th percentile (PDF)

Published in News and views
Monday, 22 April 2013 10:23

8th grader gives low marks to ELA exam

Last week students in grades 3-8 sat for state standardized reading exams that were longer and harder than in previous years and, for the first time, aligned with the Common Core reform. Some students even ended up in tears, teachers said. This week, the same students are bracing for three days of math exams: Wednesday-Friday. An 8th-grader (who wishes to remain anonymous) from the Center School in Manhattan reflects on his testing experience last week and gives it -- and his performance -- low marks. Here's his report.

Because our principal has so much faith in her students, we all approach standardized tests without worry. I went into this one thinking it would be just like all the others I have taken -- not too hard. It turned out, on the whole, to be harder than it has been. It wasn't unbearable for me, even though I barely had enough time to complete some sections. The stories were quite long. Many were two pages, some three. I had to constantly look back, to reread several times, and that took time. A lot of the answers seemed to be equally valid and [based on] somebody's opinion, not fact.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 11 April 2013 15:28

Walcott: Turn down the exam pressure

On the eve of next week's state ELA exams for grades 3-8, Chancellor Walcott is urging principals to "turn the pressure down" on teachers in the wake of "heightened anxiety" about this year's high stakes tests.

Walcott and State Ed Commissioner John King have been saying that the 2013 state tests will be more difficult to pass because for the first time they are aligned with the new Common Core standards which many schools have just began to implement. Some teachers say they have not had adequate curricula and learning materials to prepare for the new standards.

In his weekly letter to principals, Walcott acknowledged the anxiety surrounding the upcoming ELA and math exams. He writes: "...a natural reaction would be to turn the heat up on your teachers, who tend to respond by turning the heat up on their students," he writes. "Instead, to the greatest extent you can, I’m asking you and your team to do the opposite, and turn the pressure down."

Even with the expected drop in student scores, "roughly the same number of students will attend summer school as in previous years," he said . "And teacher evaluation and school accountability will adjust accordingly so no one is punished by the change in assessments."

Earlier this week, Walcott visited Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn with King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, to see how that school was implementing the Common Core. He praised the leadership for "cultivating a caring culture" that other principals should follow.

See the full text of his letter after the jump.

Published in News and views

For the first time in four years, fewer than 1,000 incoming kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on the city's gifted and talented exams, but there are still more than twice as many top-scoring tykes than there are seats in the five most selective citywide programs. Of the 13,559 rising kindergartners who sat for G&T assessments in January and February, just under seven percent -- 921 -- scored in the 99th percentile on the nationally-normed tests.

Despite the introduction of a non-verbal exam meant to increase the number of low-income children who qualify for G&T programs, the gap in performance persists between rich and poor districts.

Scoring between the 97th-99th percentile on the G&T assessments means a child is eligible for a citywide program. But there are fewer than 400 seats for incoming kindergartners. Further decreasing the odds of entry, qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats.

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