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New York City's high school graduation rate rose from 59% in 2009 to 61% in 2010, but only 35% of the graduates were prepared for college, the state and city reported today.
The 2010 graduation rate represents students who entered high school in 2006 and graduated in June of 2010 with either a Local or Regents diploma. (When August graduates are included, the city's rate rises to 65%). To obtain a Local diploma students need only a passing score of 55 on two of the five Regents exams; for a Regents diploma the passing score is 65. But, the Local diploma is being phased out and all students who enter 9th grade in 2008 or later need a score of 65 or above on all the exams to earn a diploma.
In addition to stiffening graduation requirements, the state has begun to measure how well high schools are preparing students for college. Testing experts told the State Education Department last year that nearly a quarter of students enrolled in New York State colleges needed to take remedial courses. The state calculates that students must score 80 or higher on the math Regents and at least 75 on the English Regents to be prepared for college. It also considers the number of graduates who earn Advanced Regents Diplomas, passing seven Regents exams with a score of 65. In 2010, 16.4% of NYC graduates earned an Advanced Regents Diploma, up from 12.5% in 2005. By those standards, referred to as "Aspirational Performance Measures," only 35% of the 2010 graduates were "college ready."
Statistics clearly show that the gap between the college-readiness rate at highly selective and specialized high schools and non-selective schools is huge, but graduates of some of the new, small schools also did well.
Among them: Manhattan/Hunter High School for Science had 75% of its entering 9th graders finish on time and ready for college, High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies, 74%, and Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, 59% . Marble Hill High School for International Studies, a small school for new immigrants in the Bronx, had a college-readiness rate of 40%, higher than the city's average.
Over-all, schools created since 2002 have an average graduation rate of 65.7%, compared with 46.1% for schools the city decided to phase out.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott, heralded the improvement in graduation rates for black and Hispanic students, who make up 70% of the city's school population. "The graduation rate reached 60.6 % for black students and 58.2 % for Hispanic students, both increases of more than 20 points since 2005," according to the press release, although they are still lower than those of their white and Asian counterparts.
More than 34,000 students in grades 3 to 8 scored so low on the 2011 standardized math and reading tests this spring that they will need to attend summer school July 5, the Department of Education reports. The number assigned to summer school has more than tripled since 2009, largely because the state raised its standards in 2010. Students cannot be promoted if they score Level 1 (out of 4) on the exams. They may attend summer school, retake the exams in August and be promoted if they score Level 2.
Although the test results won't be available until late July, the DOE is basing its recommendations on preliminary data. Officials say results are delayed because the state tests are now given in May, rather than in January and March as in previous years.
Last year the DOE grossly underestimated the number of students needing to attend summer school: in June they recommended 22,802 students go to summer school, but once the actual results came out in late July, it turned out that 31,000 should have attended. And, they found that another 1,800 children had actually passed the exams and should not have been sent to summer classes. This year, after consulting with the state, the DOE is "predicting that the cutoff between a score of 1 and 2 will fall at roughly the same place it did last year," a spokesperson said.
The DOE estimates that 16,298 did not meet criteria on the reading (ELA); 10,058 missed the passing mark in math, and 7,713 failed to pass either exam. Update: The 34,069 total recommended for summer school represents 9% of the 3rd-8th graders who took the tests.
At 3 p.m. today, principals received the list of names of students who are slated for summer school. They have until close of business on Wednesday to appeal a recommendation if they believe a student should be promoted without attending summer school. They must provide a portfolio of the student's work to the district superintendent who makes the final promotion decision.
Last summer, roughly half of the students got passing marks on the August exams with 11,321 of the 22,802 summer school attendees promoted to the next grade.
Actual results for all May test-takers in grades 3-8 will not be available to parents until mid-August when they will be posted on the ARIS Parent Link. No word yet on how many high school students may be facing summer school: Regents exam week begins on Wednesday and the results of those tests help determine whether a student passes a course or must retake it in summer school.
An information sheet for parents about the testing timeline and summer school is posted on the DOE's website.
My sophomore came home from school the other day and declared that he was sick and tired of working on the same practice paragraphs over and over for the English Regents exam. He was bored of test prep and annoyed by constant conversation about test scores and student performance. And he decided to voice his concerns aloud, in class.
The ability to question authority may be admirable, but it’s not necessarily welcomed by teachers who may be judged, compensated and evaluated on how well their students score on standardized tests. Teachers at his school are even offering extra credit for sitting through two-hour practice sessions for the English Regents, which I gather is not students’ first choice of activity on these stunningly beautiful June afternoons.
I strongly urged him to get the extra credit, but not because I defend this new testing culture. Discussing some of the great books and plays he’s been reading in high school is a lot more fun. If I have time, I’ve enjoyed reading, or re-reading in many cases, some of the texts his class is discussing from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to Richard Wright’s Native Son, as well as one of my all-time favorites, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Apparently those in-class conversations have ceased, replaced by non-stop discussions of the "critical lens” essay portion of the exam – not exactly dinner-table conversation. Nonetheless, I decided to poke around and find out more about what these essays ask students to do. Here’s what I learned.
Students are given a quotation to read and are then asked to interpret it. They write an essay using two works they’ve studied to show how the work is true or untrue, making mention of literary elements like irony, symbolism or foreshadowing, for example. They must avoid plot summary, establish criteria for analysis, organize their ideas clearly, specify details (title, author) and follow the conventions of standard written English.
I have no problem with asking students to master these tasks. It all seems quite reasonable. However, like my son, I am questioning a testing culture that has “sapped so much of the joy from the classroom and pushed so many teachers to replace creative, imaginative lessons with timid and defensive ones,” according to my sage colleague, Insideschools.org founder Clara Hemphill.
Her comments and some other fascinating ones around testing – including much passionate defense of it can be found in an excellent Room For Debate conversation that appeared in the New York Times last week. The debate comes at a time when the city is developing new “performance tasks” that administrators believe will help students learn—and help teachers judge what students have learned.
Kevin Carey of Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington D.C, says “the city should be cautious in using initial test results for high-stakes personnel decisions,’’ but he calls the new approach “a welcome development for students who deserve to be taught by educators with a demonstrated ability to help children learn.”
Carey, however, does not have a 15-year-old son in a New York City public high school who is bored to rebellion by test prep, or a middle-schooler so anxious about the fact that his teachers may be judged on his results that he can’t sleep the night before standardized tests.
There is no shortage of opinion about test prep, and no consensus either. Marcus Winter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, believes the tests “provide important information about teacher quality that we should use to improve our terribly flawed system for evaluating teachers.”
On the other side, PBS News Hour correspondent and Learning Matters president John Merrow deeply probes assumptions about standardized tests in a column reproduced on the Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet” blog.
“We don’t respect students’ intelligence; hence we focus on the lowest common denominator in skills,’’ writes Merrow, author of The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership. “We don’t respect teachers, which is why we turn to standardized testing as the be-all and end-all of evaluation.”
Insideschools.org would like to hear from parents on how their children are faring in this new test culture. Any other rebels at home? Are there parents who believe more tests and an increased focus on testing will actually improve teaching and learning? We welcome your thoughts.
Students in grades 3-8 will take the state reading (English Language Arts) exam for three days next week: May 4, 5, and 6. The following week they face three days of math tests: May 11, 12, and 13.
For years, the tests were given in January and March, but last year the state decided to give the exams in May so they could cover more material. That resulted in widespread confusion in June about which students needed to attend summer school--because the results weren't available yet. In late July, the state announced it had set higher scores needed to pass the tests, resulting in more than half of the 23,000 students attending summer school finding out they wouldn't be promoted to the next grade.
Given last year's experience, and the high stakes associated with the standardized tests in general, we're wondering whether parents are helping with "test prep" their kids at home, or even signing them up for tutoring or prep courses. Or, have teachers have done enough in the previous eight months to prepare them?
Take our poll (in the righthand column) and comment below.
Jon Stewart this week blasted conservative media and politicians for protecting Wall Street while calling teachers “greedy.” Last night Stewart’s guest was education historian and NYU Professor Diane Ravitch, discussing her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. I watched the show with Diane herself in a room full of education activists who shared the views that have made Ravitch a major voice in education in this country.
Stewart’s mother was a teacher, and the personal offense he takes from the recent fad of teacher bashing comes across. "So what reforms do we need to change the conversation?" Stewart asked. Ravitch said that teachers all over country are demoralized, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as corporate philanthropists Eli Broad and Bill Gates, are on the wrong track. Rather than focusing on which teachers to punish or lay off, we should be looking at making sure children have adequate health care and pre-K education. Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Diane Ravitch and see what you think.
There’s a middle school scene my youngest child will never forget. On the day when eighth-graders received decisions about who got into the city’s nine specialized high schools, the sounds of sobbing reverberated through the hallways. While plenty of students got good news, others experienced the sting of disappointment in the company of supportive friends and school officials.
He was devastated and taken aback by the tears. The idea of public rejection and of having to go through a search process all over again seemed particularly painful to a sensitive sixth-grader, who had just finished touring and ranking middle schools and was trying to settle in.
Two years later, it’s his turn. Offer letters came out today, and some schools called all students awaiting word into a guidance office, and allowed them to open up the envelopes together. Roughly 6,000 eighth-graders got offers to these elite schools.
Students at my son’s middle school will not get their results today, because school officials decided to no longer break the news to them personally. In a letter home, the school noted how stressful this time can be for students.
“Some will receive splendid news, and others will be very disappointed with their results,’’ the letter noted. “It's very important for parents to open the letters with their children and also to have a conversation with them about the next steps.’’
The letter also offered some comfort: “If your child receives disappointing news, remind them that this does not mean they haven’t been matched to a school at all, it just means that they will find out about their match in March. It always works out in some shape or form, and it is important to remind our children of this. If we remain calm and optimistic, so will our kids.”
I thought that was tremendous advice, even though some parents pushed hard for an immediate answer. Because different schools have different ways of giving the news out, some kids found out today. Others may get letters on Saturday or not until next week. The news, meanwhile, will trickle out via Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks.
Insideschools.org is interested to hear from parents – and students – on the best way to get – and handle the news. How is it going in your child’s middle school? Is it better for kids to open the letters together or wait and get it at home?
Earlier this week parents, including our High School Hustle blogger Liz, were scratching their heads about the high school Regents Week exam schedule which meant no classes for most high school students. Thursday's snowstorm added a new level of uncertainty for some students. When school was canceled, Regents exams, mandated for high school graduation, were canceled as well. Students who were scheduled to take an exam in U.S. History and Government, Geometry, Chemistry,Physics, Science, or Reading, will have to wait until the next Regents Week, June 15-24, to take it.
In a statement on Thursday, the State Education Department said that seniors who are scheduled to graduate this month, and are only missing a passing grade on a Regents exam to earn their diplomas, may use course grades to obtain a local diploma. A local diploma is not as desirable as a Regents diploma, granted to students who pass a minimum of five Regents exams, including U.S. History and Government.
January graduates may opt to take the Regent exam in June, State Commissioner David Steiner said, if they want to earn the Regents diploma.
As for other midterm or final exams scheduled for Thursday, it will be up to the individual schools to decide how and when to reschedule.
See the Department of Education's website for an update on the Regents exams cancellation.
I keep getting caught up and confused by high school exam schedules. Of course, I knew about final exams that took place in most New York City public high schools last week. And I vaguely recall seeing something about a reduced schedule during Regents week, which runs through Jan. 28.
But I didn’t realize that would mean my son would have only one day of school this week!
If I had been savvy enough to study the schedule in advance, I might have done something like my far-more in-the-know friends have done – ship the kid off to say, a grandparent, or line up a week of paying work or community service.
I checked in with my suburban siblings -- who assured me their teenagers are also off.
Friends in some city high schools, though, said their kids are still in class. For the statewide scoop, I went straight to Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Education.
Schools “are expected are expected to continue regular instruction during the January and June Regents Examination periods to the fullest extent possible,’’ Burman told me.
Classes may be canceled only when the number of students taking examinations is so large that normal instruction cannot be carried on effectively, he said. I could not get firm numbers on just how many students are taking the Regents exams, but the pool has grown larger with requirements that high school students pass five of them to graduate.
Apparently, the mid-year exams create something of a scheduling nightmare for schools. In small schools, teachers have to find rooms where they can teach during Regents week. The exams also come at a time when teachers are grading finals and working on programming students' schedules for the second semester.
Schools don’t have to take attendance on Regents exam days, Marge Feinberg of the New York City Department of Education told me. And if grades 7-12 are housed in the same building, the middle school students may also get the time off if their class schedules are disrupted by the Regents exams.
All of this is likely making a whole lot of teenagers happy, even if working parents are somewhat disgruntled. My son clearly articulated what he wants to do with this week: Chill.
Chilling generally involves multiple sleepovers and band practices, and it can turn the average city apartment into a landfill. I’m already anticipating coming home to cartons of pizza and cookies and card games strewn about. I also won’t be home to complain about screen abuse and to witness what could be endless, mind-numbing hours of video games.
The unscheduled free time might even convert me to the more stringent, no sleepover, no television and no video game parenting ethos of Amy Chau, author of the highly publicized and best selling “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”
I’m sure Chau would have figured out a way to handle an unanticipated week off of school: (Extra credit projects? More piano lessons? Better birthday cards? Prepare for graduate school?)
Chilling, on the other hand, does nothing to improve grades. It earns no money and no community service credit. And chilling adds nothing to the general ambiance of a family household, especially when a resentful younger child still has to go to school.
I reluctantly acknowledge the value of so-called “down time,” even if I don’t get any of it myself. I’m not completely against giving over-scheduled kids a little time off in the middle of January when many of us would much rather stay in bed.
I just can’t help wondering why an entire high school must come to a halt because of exams that may involve a small percentage of students. Must every teacher be occupied with these mid-year exams so that all classes are canceled? Isn’t there some way high schools could continue to be open and maybe offer tutoring clinics in tough subjects or some SAT prep?
What about clubs or activities, a Red Cross babysitting course, CPR or some skill that would help students find a job? How about a resume writing workshop or a book group discussion? What about sports and games?
Insideschools.org would like to know if other parents have been caught off guard by Regents week. Are you satisfied that you had enough notice? Any coping tips?
I vividly recall sitting in a waiting room, thinking my daughter’s future was being determined 15 feet away. There, behind closed doors, a child psychologist was administering the Stanford-Binet IQ test designed to detect early signs of genius. If my daughter aced the exam, she might gain entry into New York’s top elementary school for gifted students, a feat that would likely put her on a fast track to academic and professional success. An average score would mean – well, in New York such things make parents shudder.
My daughter was 3 years old.
Her SB results indicated she was above average but not brilliant. Hunter College Elementary School was not an option. Later came the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BRSA) for entrance into a gifted and talented program. I anxiously waited for results that might show I had spawned a prodigy, but hopes fell as the numbers arrived. She did not qualify for the citywide Anderson or NEST. A nice gifted and talented program on the Upper West Side offered her a seat, but it had a few drawbacks, and getting there would be a daily inconvenience.
Today, nearly two years after that first IQ test, I’m making a resolution for 2011: No G&T testing. My daughter, now 5, is happily enrolled in a general-education kindergarten at a fine NYC public school three blocks from home. She’s doing well and is fitting in among her Manhattan classmates, all of whom seem like good, bright kids. Her teacher seems to be pushing my child’s development at the right pace. I can’t imagine a rigorous G&T program would be a better fit.
I didn’t always feel this way. When the good-but-not-stellar test scores arrived, I took it personally. I reasoned (as do most fathers) that my daughter was capable of greatness. Any failures must therefore be mine, not hers. Perhaps we spent too much time playing in the sandbox, and not enough with alphabet flashcards. Surely I had squandered precious hours, missed once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. As a result, doors were closing that might have led to wonderful opportunities.
I’ve since learned this mind-set misses the whole point of a G&T program. Kids who are truly gifted – those who flourish amid an enriched and accelerated curriculum – possess a natural curiosity and persistence, and parental prep rarely fosters such qualities. Gifted programs certainly have flaws (G&T classes have been eliminated in parts of NYC where they would be of great benefit to exceptionally bright kids), and the idea that a quiz can accurately predict which 4-year-old will grow into an Einstein is problematic at its core (marshmallow test, anyone?). But when the system works, G&T programs challenge and nurture naturally bright kids in ways typical classrooms can’t. (Testing begins January 10 for this year's 4-year-olds who have already signed up.) G&T is not the Ivy League of public education, but rather a rescue rope that hoists bright kids out of insufficiently stimulating schools.
My daughter's NYC elementary school meets her needs, and then some. Her future has not yet been decided. Doors remain open. And to her mother and me, my little girl remains the greatest gift any parent could receive.
Joyce Szuflita, of NYSChoolHelp.com, attended the Meet and Greet with Chancellor Klein sponsored by the District 15 Community Education Council. Here's her recap of the evening.
Last night, schools chancellor Joel I. Klein participated in a town hall style meeting sponsored by District 15’s Community Education Council. The large crowd of parents, students and teachers that gathered inside Sunset Park Prep Academy’s auditorium grilled the chancellor on a range of topics affecting District 15 families and those citywide.
Klein opened with a brief PowerPoint presentation demonstrating rising test scores and a shrinking achievement gap. His conclusions invited considerable dissent by CEC members over how to interpret the test results. Klein also told the crowd that 2162 new seats were created recently in District 15. Both CEC members and parents questioned why District 2 has small, selective high schools that give priority to District 2 residents (Manhattan has no zoned options for high school), while in other parts of the city there are few small, screened programs that offer in-district priority. Some spoke of the heartbreak felt by many Brooklyn students over not being admitted to Millennium High School last year. In previous years, Millennium, also a District 2 school, routinely accepted Brooklyn students despite its policy of giving top priority to residents of lower Manhattan.
Klein responded that the schools were zoned by the old District 2 School Board long before his tenure and that Millennium was built after 9/11 to support and revitalize the downtown neighborhoods. He voiced his interest in providing schools that are open to students citywide.
Funding was on the minds of teachers who asked where Race to the Top money was being spent, and if “high priced consultants” and charter schools had their budgets slashed as much as DOE schools.
Klein said that most funding cuts happened at central office and administrative levels and that charter programs are funded at a lower level per student than DOE schools.
A student from the Secondary School for Journalism, one of several schools located in the former John Jay High School, told Klein that her school was cutting language and arts classes. She asked why the DOE is considering opening a new program at the John Jay campus instead of spending money on the schools already in the building, which would make them more attractive to neighborhood students.
Klein explained that there is a need to open more school facilities and that the money spent to create new space comes from a different budget than the one that funds school operations.
We hear that the Chancellor will be speaking at the District 2 CEC meeting next week, at PS 33 on October 27
What questions do have for him? What's happening in your district?