Open Letter to Parents and Educators on inconsistency between 3‐8 proficiency rates and Regents proficiency rates and graduation rates
New York State’s students and educators have made great strides in recent years in the classroom. Statewide four year graduation rates are up from 75% in 2013 to 80% in 2017. Since 2007 the overall graduation rate is up from 68.6%. Also, for black students the four year graduation rate rose from 60% to 69% and for Hispanic students the graduation rate rose from 59% to 68% over the past four years. These increased graduation rates are a testament to the dedication of our educators, students, the families of public school children who are all working together to improve educational outcomes for our students. The increase in the graduation rates since 2013 mean that over 10,000 more students every year are graduating high school on time compared to four years ago.
The vast majority of students are passing the high school Regents exams required for graduation and the percent of students graduating with advanced Regents Diplomas is on the rise. This is all great news and shows how hard our educators and students have been working.
There is of course more work to do on student performance. Also, there remains a clear connection to the wealth of a community and the academic performance of students. Low need school districts have a 95% four year graduation rate and average need districts have an 88% graduation rate. However, the graduation rate drops to 70% for high need urban/suburban school districts. Sadly this speaks to the unequal access to high quality education programs in many low wealth, high need school districts for far too many children and the need for additional funding for these districts.
Nonetheless, the challenges that lie ahead do not diminish the successes that have been achieved in our public schools.
Student performance on the state grade 3 – 8 tests is contrary to the vast academic successes at the high school level. 60% of grades 3‐8 students are identified as not proficient on the state 3‐8 ELA and Math exams. Statewide proficiency rates that hover around 40% are wholly inconsistent with the excellent performance levels on Regents exams and with rising graduation rates.
It would be reasonable to assume that if students were not proficient on their 3‐8 state exams that they would not be prepared to successfully pass Regents exams. However, this is not the case; for example, in 2016 24% of the 8th grade students that took the 8th Grade Math assessment were identified as proficient, but one year later when most of these students took the Algebra I Regents exam 74% passed. Similarly in 2013, only 31% of 7th graders were proficient on the state ELA exam and four years later in 11th grade, when most of those 7th graders took the ELA common Core Regents exam, the Regents passage rate was 84%.
We all know that the long standing Regents exams are high quality whereas the grades 3‐8 exams have been the source of much controversy in recent years. Parents and teachers should be asking why the proficiency rates on the 3‐8 assessments are so low.
What is wrong with these assessments? They are clearly not measuring student performance and proficiency levels in an accurate manner.
SED has shortened the length of the grade 3‐8 exams from three to two days. This modification was supported by NYSUT and this will improve the test experience for children. However, shortening the length of these tests does not address the issue of how SED determines proficiency levels on grade 3‐8 exams. SED must address the process by which they determine proficiency levels on grade 3‐8 ELA and math exams to properly align the outcomes with Regent exams and graduation rates.
Parents, teachers, and all those who care about our public education school children must join together to demand that SED fix this problem.