Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Daily News Misses A Big Part Of ELA Regents Score Plummet Story

The Daily News claims cheating teachers were the main reason scores on the 2013 ELA Regents exam fell:

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.

City Education Department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said that she didn’t believe the grading crackdown was responsible for the drop in scores. Algebra and History tests also used open-ended questions, she said, yet scores didn’t decline in those subjects .

David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Grad Center, was willing to take a stab at identifying the cause of the drop.

“It appears that more objective scoring resulted in a higher failure rate,” he said.

A reason why the grades fell that never gets mentioned in the Daily News article?

The Regents changed the grading chart so that students needed to get more multiple choice questions right and score higher on the three written components in order to pass.

Brutal ELA Regents Exam Grading Chart From NYSED

Okay, they're looking for a high failure rate at SED on the ELA Regents exam, that's for sure.

Students need to get 20 out of 25 multiple choice questions right in order to get only a 6 on their writing component.

Given how hard the passages were, I suspect we are going to see lots of 6's on the writing components.

That means we're going to get lots of failures.

The chart is even harder than last August's when students had to get 19 out of 25 multiple choice right in order to pass with a 6 out of 10 on their writing components.

That was a brutal test too.

But IMO the Regents and the SED saved the best for the latest - a truly brutal test with a brutal scoring chart.

It's not an accident that as teacher evals have been tied to Regents scores, the charts and tests have gotten harder each time.

Commissioner King, Regents Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo have a political agenda here - to prove that public schools are failing and public school teachers are failures.

The children of the state just happen to be collateral damage in all of this.

I have some students from a remedial class who have failed the exam three or four times, depending on whether they took it over the summer or not.

It is really difficult to see any of them passing today's exam with the scoring chart handed down from King and Tisch.

I don't know what to say to them when they say "You mean I have to spend another five months preparing for this exam I can't pass?" 

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 Teachers

There 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.


  1. RBE, Newsday has a story about the large number of parents opposed to testing that gained seats on their local school board, some inspiration to counter the results of the flawed ELA results.

  2. State maintains that the drop in scores has nothing to do with the change in the scoring chart. However, their move to stop schools from grading their own exams was motivated by a desire to curb what they saw as score inflation. After they instituted the change, scores dropped.

    Re: Your charge that we're soft on charter schools, Diane Ravitch disagrees:

    Truth is, the Daily News has done far more investigation into charter schools than any paper in the city.

    -Ben Chapman

    1. Ben, I am glad that you read this article, because as soon as I read your article this morning I planned to tweet you about the more difficult charts and tests.

      While I know that with some of these schools it is clear that grade inflation happened, (no one drops 40% from a more difficult chart alone) it is ridiculous for the state to claim that the more difficult charts did not lead to any drop off in passing rate. They made the tests more difficult, and they made it more difficult to pass, of course that will lower the passing rate.

      The problem I have with your article, is that it is presented as if 75% of schools declined solely because of grade inflation, when in reality the vast majority of teachers are not inflating grades, and each time I participated in off site grading the teachers from other schools and my own were grading exactly as they normally would. Many of the schools dropped a few percentage points because of the more difficult cuts scores not because of inflation.

      It would have been a better article if you compared raw scores rather than just passing rates to see what percentage of students actually did worse.

    2. Ben,

      It's true, the DN has done far more investigation into charters than the other papers in the city.

      But considering two of the other papers are owned by charter-shilling Rupert Murdoch and the other one doesn't deign to cover too much on the local education scene, that's not as impressive as it sounds.

      Also, if we subtract the work of Juan Gonzalez from the DN investigative stories of charters, it's even less impressive.

      I know you did the story about some charter school fraud a few weeks ago and that was a good story.

      But frankly, outside of Gonzalez, the DN investigative pieces on charters aren't that numerous.

      As for the bias against traditional public school teachers, it's clear in what you don't mention in this article.

      The DN story nails the schools that were clearly inflating Regents scores right to the wall.

      Dropping from 80%+ passing to 45% indicates that Regents scores were inflated before grading was switched to centralized locations. The article leaves little doubt about that.

      But you never once mention that charter schools are STILL grading in-house, nor does the article question whether those scores are inflated.

      Last point - the SED is full of crap when they say changing the grading chart doesn't alter the passing rates. The DN story neither addressed the grading chart changes nor the SED statement maintaining that the drop in scores had nothing to do with the changes to the chart.

      A fair story would have noted that charters still graded in-house and reported on the changes to the grading chart.

      The DN story didn't do either and that's why it feels like another hammer job in a long line of DN hammer jobs.

      Much of the Cap NY education stuff is behind a rather expensive paywall these days, but when they cover issues like this, they cover all facets and I bet that both the charter in-house grading and the changes to the grading chart would have made it to their story if they had covered it.

      I'm not much of a shill for any journalism outlet or writers, but I really like the work they do at Cap NY.

      And I think if you compare the story the DN ran this morning to the stories Cap NY does on education, you can see the difference in the coverage.

      I understand the DN has to keep the word count down and that may put some limits on the stories.

      But that still doesn't excuse the two issues I mentioned regarding today's ELA Regents piece.

  3. Hey Nuts,
    I always read this blog. It is one of my all-time favorites! I don't quite understand what you mean about the raw scores thing?

    1. You are reporting on the education beat, yet you don't know what cut scores are, despite the importance of test scores to the debate? That's pitiful, and suggests yet another reason - ruling class consensus about privatizing the schools aside - why the debate is so one-sided: the reporters don't bother to know what they're reporting on.

      Wow, and they say teachers don't know their subject material !

    2. Pretty much what anonymous said below. For ELA students get a score of 0-10 for the written responses and 0-25 for multiple choice. So the question is are students actually scoring lower on the written responses, or is it just the cut scores that caused the drop.

      Or is it possible that students are scoring lower on the Multiple Choice, which in my opinion has gotten more difficult in recent years. (This would be an issue of course, but would not suggest that grade inflation is the problem. )

  4. Raw scores are the actual numbers. For example, a student may have scored 50 out of a total of 100 points. If I were to assign the cut as 45, the student would have passed. Whereas, if I were to assign the cut as 60, the student would have failed.

  5. Michael, your tone is awful. I know what cut scores are. You're confused.

    Nuts & Anonymous: that data would be useful but it's not available. And, to repeat, the state says that the changes didn't have an impact on the pass rates.

    Also, Nuts, I think you know this, but I am always ready to discuss my stories with you. My email is

    Thanks for reading and have a nice day

    1. I am Anonymous. With all due respect Mr. Chapman, I would maintain healthy scepticism in regard to the crap spewed out by the bureaucrats in Albany.

    2. Hmm, you know what cut scores are, but not raw scores?

      That suggests to me that you still don't comprehend what you're reporting on.

  6. Anonymous: Thanks for the tip. I'll be sure to maintain healthy "scepticism"

    1. My apologies Mr. Chapman.

      Skepticism - I am enrolled in a remedial writing program. I am one of those teachers with subpar skills soon to be eradicated by the plutocracy.

  7. Michael, I know what raw scores are. Sheesh. What Nuts was talking about was the two different categories of scores. It wasn't clear from his initial post.

    1. Mr. Chapman,

      I hate to gang up on you with Mr. Fiorillo. However, at 11:47, you inquired on this bog as to the meaning of raw scores. At 1:33, you had learned what raw scores are with our gracious assistance. Do you think we are sleeping? Congratulations on being a quick study!

  8. I was asking the significance of raw scores in the context of this conversation. Google my hundreds of clips on education. I know what raw scores are. Don't be silly.

  9. Last point on this. Nuts: our article never used the word "cheating" except when we wrote that educators said they were not cheating. It's inaccurate to write that our article says cheating educators were the reason for the decline. We wrote that scores dropped after the rules were changed. We were very careful not to use the word cheating because we don't believe that's necessarily what was going on.
    ANYWAY... thanks again for reading and commenting even if this post is tagged "bad journalism" ... Take care everyone & drop me a line any time.

  10. Speaking of the obsession with high-stakes test scores all your readers may want to take a look at and help edit Shael Suransky’s Wikipedia page. Both the content and the history of the edits suggest that Shael himself is writing the page and then blocking any contributor who tries to add more factual data. See the history of the page edits that show that the initial bulk of the entry was written from an IP address shared by computers at the Tweed Courthouse where Shael had his office. The bulk of the entry was also written right after election day and Mayor de Blasio’s election when it became clear that Shael would have to go. A more accurate analysis of Shael’s career can be found here: and that information should be included in the Wikepedia entry. But Shael tries to block. Help out and add the info to Wikipedia.

  11. Am I at 120K yet?

    1. 120K in 2020 Equals 75K in 2010. The concepts of inflation and the time value of money elude your small mind.

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