Wednesday, March 12

Student Thought: On the weighted Regents pass rate and everything it stands for

Plainly stated, the Weighted Regents Pass Rate sucks. For those of you who don't know, the Weighted Regents Pass Rate is an assessment of a school's performance based on students' Regents test scores, and it's one component that makes up a high school's progress report grade.

As you can probably guess, the Regents pass rate part stands for: What percentage of students pass their Regents exams? I guess that one's okay. If you're being taught well in a course, you would likely be able to pass that Regents test (except for Math B, I know many kids who've scored in the top 5 percent on the SAT and have had to take Math B two or even three times).

But the "weighted" part gets tricky.

See, because of that little weighted part schools are given extra points for getting kids to take their Regents early or to achieve "mastery" by scoring an 85 percent or above. This little, tiny, eensy-weensy "weighted" part now puts the whole test prep culture that is so darn prevalent in our schools on STEROIDS. It is now become the SUPER DUPER AWESOME PUMPED UP EXCELLENT-TASTIC TEST PREP CULTURE.

And because of that SUPER DUPER AWESOME PUMPED UP EXCELLENT-TASTIC TEST PREP CULTURE a lot of students' lives get kind of messed up.

I have a friend who passed her Math B Regents exam in 8th grade based on the rock solid, well-oiled test prep curriculum at her middle school. She then came to high school, got dumped into precalculus, didn't know any of the material, struggled and even failed her first two years of math. She eventually had to be put in classes that were prerequisites for a test she'd already passed. This made her look kind of bad on her college applications and messed with her self-esteem.

So, while the school got points for having a student take the Math B so early, the student suffered.

In my discussions with the DOE regarding the NYC Student Union's positions regarding the progress reports, I have consistently argued that the Weighted Regents Pass Rate needs to be cut down or removed. The DOE's reply has been that it is the only measure of "longitudinal growth."

Regents aren't supposed to measure any "longitudinal growth." This growth DOE officials speak of has more to do with the day's weather, test-taking skills, and student anxiety than it does with the quality of teaching and learning that goes on in the school.

Regents are there to make sure that teachers are teaching their students and students are attempting to learn the subject matter at hand, to hold standards. That's it. When it comes to measuring a school's success, a simple Regents Pass Rate will do.

Cross-posted at NYC Students Blog

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