Thursday, September 10, 2009

Experts: Test focus driving education wrong way, not preparing college-bound NYC students

NYC Parent Steve Koss writes:

In her article in yesterday's NY Daily News, Meredith Kolodner wrote that, "In 2002, a student could pass the math Regents exam by getting about 61% of the questions right. This year, that number dropped to 42%." Actually, and sadly, that number of 42% is correct but also doesn't tell the whole story. In comparing to June 2002, she used the Math A exam where a 61% raw score (52 out of 85 possible points) gave you a 65 scaled score and compared that to January 2009's final Math A exam where a 42% (just 35 out of 84 possible raw score points) "earned" (more like gifted) you a 65.

The rest of the story, so to speak, is that the Integrated Algebra exam that has replaced Math A has lowered the bar even further, something that hardly seemed possible without being called out for academic malpractice. Be that as it may, that's what has happened, so that in June and August of 2009, the aspiring 9th Grade student needs score only 30 out of 87 raw score points (just 34.5%) to be given (yes, given, not earned) a 65.

I am quoted in the Daily News story (see full text below), but here's part of what I wrote to Ms. Kolodner by email (I'm in China right now) when she was preparing her story (she used part of the first sentence in her story):

My own view of the Regents exams (at least those in my field - Math) is that they have been so simplified and the raw (cut) score for passing has been so reduced that the exams are now virtually meaningless as measures of mathematical knowledge or preparedness. I would argue that a student who is granted a converted score of 65 on Integrated Algebra (having managed to earn 30 raw score points out of 87, or just 34.5% of the points available) is in no way, shape, or form prepared for the next level of high school mathematics and is, in fact, very likely to experience failure in his or her math course work and Regents exams throughout the rest of his/her high school career. NY State is now graduating students with an assertion that they have achieved some base level of mathematical competency (passing the Integrated Algebra Regents is their only math diploma requirement) based on an exam in which sheer, blind guessing on 30 multiple choice questions will, on average, get you halfway (15 points) to a passing score. A student who knows the correct answers to just 10 multiple choice questions can blind-guess the remaining 20 and, on average, will pass. This leaves out any consideration of the remainder of the exam (extended answer questions) as well as educated guessing (where the most obviously wrong answer(s) can be eliminated and the correct answer guessed from the reduced set of options, increasing the odds of guessing correctly).

This is hardly the type of foundation you would want to build for students' future math work in high school or for any sort of college preparation. As a result, we end up with a benign, almost paternalistic form of academic fraud in which students are told that they have "passed math" and have an acceptable level of competency for whatever lies before them. Far worse, their parents, most of whom are not aware of how the Regents exams are structured, graded, o r scaled, are consequently led to believe that their children have demonstrated that level of proficiency on a NYS-administered exam, so it must be legitimate. How many parents would react with shock or dismay if they wre told the truth, that Johnny or Janie's Integrated Math Regents exam score of 65% this last June was in reality a 34% (30 out of 87), or that his or her 70% was actually a 40% (35 out of 87)? Do anyone believe those parents would be relaxed about their chidren's education, believing they were being well-prepared for college or adulthood? What scaled scoring has done has been to rob parents of their understanding of their children's true educational achievement levels, and you see next to nothing done by NYS, NYC, or individual schools to educate their parent communities otherwise. You might call it a case of the emperor's new clothes, but in this instance, those clothes (lack thereof) are being worn by our own children who are actually parading forward unclothed.

Steve Koss


Experts: Test focus driving education wrong way, not preparing college-bound NYC students

Read more:

Some of the state-mandated Regents tests have been dumbed down in the past eight years, experts say, and many students' SAT scores leave them unprepared for college.
"Unless you were in an AP [Advanced Placement] course or an honors class, they didn't prepare you for college," said Rianna Moustapha, 18, who graduated from Leon M. Goldstein High School in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, last year.
Moustapha, a sophomore at Brooklyn College, said she was taught only to pass the Regents.
Teachers complain the tests have become less comprehensive and rigorous.
"We could be doing a lot better," said Saul Cohen, a former Queens College president, who heads the state Regents committee charged with looking at state standards.
"The complaints we get from higher ed people over and over [are that] most youngsters are not well-prepared for college - unless, of course, they've taken APs or international baccalaureates."
In 2002, a student could pass the math Regents exam by getting about 61% of the questions right. This year, that number dropped to 42%.
"The exams are now virtually meaningless as measures of mathematical knowledge or preparedness," said Steve Koss, a former New York City math teacher who is completing a study of state math exams.
"The Regents have committed to doing whatever it takes to meet the President's standard for college readiness," said state Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn.
"This will include a thorough review of the learning standards, the core curricula and the state assessments."
The national average on each section of the SAT tests has hovered at about 500 - of a perfect 800 points - for several years.
Last year, only 10% of city schools averaged above 500 in math and 7% did so in reading and writing.
At the same time, more than half of city schools' average SAT scores were below 400. A score of 200 is awarded just for showing up.
The city Education Department points to increases among those scoring higher than 600 on the SATs and the drop in the percentage of students entering the City University of New York system who must take remedial classes - 51% last year, down from 59% in 2002 - as evidence of achievement.
"The data suggests that more kids are graduating," spokesman Andrew Jacob said. "But a higher percentage are ready for college-level work."
Nonetheless, of the 56% of city students who graduate from high school, many report trouble at college.
"It's like we had to memorize, but not learn," said Jordan Woodward, 19, a Brooklyn College sophomore who graduated last year from Bedford Academy with an advanced Regents diploma and an A-minus average.
"It kind of hit me in October of my first semester when I was getting my exams back, and the grades weren't very good.
"In high school, I didn't really have to study," said Woodward, who grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. "I've gotten a lot of help from my academic adviser, and I'm doing better. It's a work in progress."

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1 comment:

Fashion said...

Imagine living in a country where everyone who aspired to be a doctor,dentist,attorney, airline pilot or controller, engineer etc. was required to pass watered down tests like the Regents in order to get certified. Our country would cease to exist. Parents need to step up and demand that the educational program used today to "teach" our children be reoriented and redesigned in favor of building a basis for a solid educational future rather than an excuse to make the curent administration look good on paper.