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HomeEducationDon’t Abandon Widespread Excessive College Commencement Exams

Don’t Abandon Widespread Excessive College Commencement Exams


Ray Domanico’s latest weblog publish favoring an overhaul of New York State’s highschool commencement necessities raises a number of necessary considerations concerning the present system, however the reforms it endorses would set again the reason for instructional transparency, accountability, and enchancment.

Domanico argues that the state’s obligatory end-of-course Regents exams have been “dumbed down” over time, each by way of their content material and passing scores, as a result of all college students should move the assessments with the intention to graduate. To handle this downside, he recommends that the one-size-fits-all method be deserted and changed with a tiered system, whereby college students, their dad and mom, or their colleges can select from a number of diploma choices, every with its personal sort of evaluation.

Domanico means that solely college students pursuing an “tutorial” diploma ought to be required to move “old-style” rigorous end-of-course Regents exams. College students “extra inclined towards workforce preparation” may “exhibit proficiency” of their chosen vocational or technical pathway. Colleges that present a “progressive instructional surroundings” could be allowed to develop their very own “genuine” assessments, aligned to their distinctive curricular fashions, one thing that’s allowed as we speak underneath a restricted waiver. And different college students who “move” their highschool programs and have a “affordable” attendance stage would obtain a “native diploma.”

In lots of respects, it is a back-to-the-future proposal. I grew up in New York State, throughout what Domanico may think about the nice outdated days, earlier than the Regents examination was a (largely) common highschool commencement requirement. At my suburban highschool, most non-vocational college students took the Regents as their end-of-course closing examination (not less than in math and science), which the trainer used to assist decide our closing grades. Different excessive colleges, notably these in low-income, minority neighborhoods, used the Regents exams sparingly, just for these college students deemed to be on a school observe. No matter who took the state assessments, all people received diplomas, until they dropped out or failed to satisfy minimal GPA or attendance necessities. As a result of I took the Regents exams, I technically acquired a “Regents diploma,” though I used to be unaware of the excellence.

At the moment, nobody paid any consideration to school- or district-level test-taking patterns and, given the differing insurance policies and practices relating to who took the assessments, the outcomes wouldn’t have been notably helpful for functions of public accountability (assuming anyone had bothered to collect the info).

The underside line is that an opt-in method to the Regents examination would open the door to the identical type of game-playing and excuse-making that masked the failings and inequities of faculty techniques within the days earlier than the standards-based reforms of the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s. I’ve little question that, given the choice, most city faculty techniques would determine to not use state assessments as a part of their highschool commencement requirement, opting as an alternative for regionally developed assessments and native diplomas based mostly on differing requirements (if any). In the meantime, in most suburbs, the place dad and mom insist on assurances of college-readiness, “tutorial” diplomas tied to state exams would stay in place.

In different phrases, New York could be embracing the pre-reform system that produced what President George W. Bush aptly known as “the comfortable bigotry of low expectations.”

Right here in Massachusetts, the place our state evaluation system known as MCAS, highschool college students should obtain a passing rating on Tenth-grade exams in English and Math, plus one other passing rating on not less than one science take a look at, with the intention to graduate. There are plans finally so as to add a U.S. historical past take a look at to the commencement normal. As in New York, the passing scores have drifted downward over time, making the MCAS bar pretty straightforward to clear. On account of motion taken by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Training in 2022, nonetheless, the commencement normal will likely be steadily elevated over the subsequent a number of years—assuming a possible 2024 poll query eliminating MCAS as a commencement requirement fails.

To maintain a typical set of educational expectations for all college students, whereas not overshooting the goal or unfairly denying a diploma to college students who’re in any other case demonstrating affordable achievement, Massachusetts has adopted quite a lot of various routes for college kids who don’t obtain a passing rating in Tenth grade to exhibit enough competency. These embody the profitable completion of an Instructional Proficiency Plan developed by a pupil’s personal faculty to deal with particular studying gaps in eleventh and twelfth grades. Such plans can embody participation in a structured, state-approved occupational pathway or early faculty program.

Domanico is true to name out the New York Board of Regents for reducing requirements. He’s additionally proper to query whether or not greater requirements may be sustained via a single take a look at. However his answer would create extra issues than it solves.

James A. Peyser served as secretary of training for Massachusetts from 2015–2022 and as chairman of the state board of training from 1999–2006.

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