Scores on English Regents exams for high schoolers plummeted when the city cracked down on grade-fudging teachers, a Daily News analysis shows.
Thousands of public school students failed the high-stakes state tests in 2013 after the city instituted new grading rules to prevent score inflation.
A stunning 373 schools out of 490 saw their passing rates drop after new guidelines barred teachers from grading tests administered at their own school.
Students must pass the test with a 65 or higher to graduate.
Overall, the number of students who failed English exams jumped from 27% in 2012 to 35% in 2013, a statistical leap not reflected in the other nine Regents subjects. At 73 schools the passing rate plummeted by more than 20 percentage points.
And I covered this back in June 2013 as well:
The ELA Regents Exam: Set Up By The Regents And The NYSED To Fail Both Students And TeachersThere are two good pieces on the brutal scoring chart that the NYSED and Regents are using for the 2013 June ELA Regents exam.
Gotham Schools covered the story yesterday:
Bronx Center for Science and Math Assistant Principal Stephen Seltzer sent a letter to State Education Commissioner John King expressing frustration about the new conversion chart that has made it more difficult for students to pass the English Regents exam.
Seltzer writes that “the rubrics and conversion charts must be aligned and consistent, and both should be made available when teachers are preparing students, not at the time of the exam.”
In the letter, sent Thursday, Seltzer writes that there is a four-point difference in the June 2011 and June 2013 conversion charts. He gives the following example to illustrate his point:
A student who scored a 23 in the multiple-choice and a 7 in the writing received a 79 in 2011 but a 75 in 2013; a student who scored a 21 on the multiple-choice and a 5 on the writing passed with a 65 in 2011 but failed with a 60 in 2013.
The change to the conversion tables was made without corresponding changes in rubrics, which makes it more difficult for teachers to identify where students’ must improve if they have to take the test again, Seltzer writes in the letter.
“A child can receive a higher raw score, meaning they’ve answered more questions correct, but receive a lower actual grade,” said Bronx Center Principal Ed Tom. “You’ve technically done better on the exam, but the score will reflect a lower grade.”
Tom said his school usually has about a 90 percent passing rate on the ELA Regents exams. But this year the school is at a 75 percent passing rate. Tom said he looked at individual student grades and the numbers don’t seem to make sense.
He said a number of students scored well on the multiple choice section, but they struggled to received credit on the short answer and essay sections, which require human grading.
“As we’re looking child by child, we’re noticing that it simply doesn’t make sense that a kid would know so much information to score almost perfectly on the multiple choice and not be able to write a short response or essay to get any points,” Tom said.
My Life As A NYC Teacher posted about the same issue:
As an ELA teacher, I have a stake in the results of these tests - stake through the heart that is. Since teachers are now going to be evaluated based on student performance on these tests, we can be fired as a result of these results. For this reason, we English teachers here at Jonathan Levin H.S. in the Bronx just took a look at the scoring charts for the June 2013 English exam and the January 2013 exam. What we found is interesting indeed. Here they are.
June 2013 ELA Scoring Chart
January 2013 ELA Scoring Chart
In June 2013 if a student scored 16 on the multiple choice section and 7 on the writing sections, the student failed with a 61. However if that same student had been lucky enough to take the test last January 2013, scoring 16 on the multiple choice and 7 on the writing would have yielded a passing score of 65.
DOE formula #1: Fewer students passing = more teachers fired.
Going back to Aug. 2012, June 2012 and Jan. 2012, we find the following:
Multiple Choice Writing Score
Aug. 2012: 16 7 65
June 2012 16 7 65
Jan. 2012 16 7 68
In other words, the June 2013 ELA Regents exam is set up to fail more students than in the past. Coincidentally, New York State has just "adopted" - read: had shoved down our throats - a new evaluation system that the UFT, rather than condemning, seems to be endorsing. See Chapter 52: Open Season on Teachers. Under this system, the "value" of a teacher is tied directly to student performance.
DOE formula #2: more failing students = more fired teachers.
And that really is what all this is about - firing more teachers and being able to use the scores in the news media to "prove" that there are many "failing" schools and "bad" teachers as a reason for why we need more corporate education reformers like charter schools and online schools.
It is not a mistake that the chart has gotten so harsh in the year that accountability has been moved from the school district and the school to the individual teacher via the Cuomo/Tisch/King APPR teacher evaluation system.
Unless the NYSED and the Regents get hammered in the press by parents for the rig job they've pulled with this scoring chart, you can expect the August ELA Regents scoring chart to be as bad.
The fix is in with this scoring chart and the scores are going to plummet accordingly.
Expect King and Tisch to wring their hands in the media about all the bad teachers and failing schools and the need for more reforminess as a result of the Regents scores - even though they're the ones who ensured the scores would plummet by rigging the scoring chart.
It's a shame the journalists at the Daily News focus on grade inflation as the sole reason for falling scores.
But if you're a teacher in the NYC school system and you pay even a little attention to the press coverage, you know the DN always has a "Blame Teachers" first mentality.
Was there some grade inflation when teachers graded tests in-house?
Sure, there was some.
Were there some schools where grade inflation was the name of the game during Regents time?
During the high stakes Bloomberg Era where schools got closed based almost solely on test scores, you bet.
The Daily News manages to find many of those schools and name them.
The same thing happened with the fire stats, the emergency response times and the crime stats under Bloomberg, btw - fudging on the numbers because of the pressure from above for constant improvement.
With all of that said, scores on the ELA Regents exam at many NYC schools didn't "plummet" when the in-house grading was ended.
They went down slightly.
And keep in mind that at the same time they were changing the in-house grading, the state was making the exam more difficult., including raising the reading difficulty and complexity on the passages, the vocabulary needed to get the multiple choice questions right, and, as I posted above, the number of correct multiple choice answers as well as scores on the writing components.
Those changes had something to do with the scores falling as well.
Too bad the Daily News journalists either didn't know about that part of the story or didn't care about it because it didn't fit their story frame.
Oh, and one more thing:
You know where they still do in-house grading of Regents exams?
At charter schools, that's where.
Somehow the traditional public school-hating Daily News couldn't bring itself to take on that part of the grade inflation story.
The DN is certain grade inflation took place in traditional public schools, but as usual with the DN, the charters get a free pass.
Classic "Blame Teachers" journalism from the Daily News - but only teachers at traditional public schools.