Monday, December 28, 2015
How To Improve The Graduation Rate By 26%? Stop Requiring Them To Take The Regents.
In New York State, almost all students who graduate high school must show mastery in their core subjects of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. To show that students have achieved mastery in these core subjects, the students must pass the State Regents exams to meet graduation requirements. To ensure that the students Regents exams were tamper proof, teachers from other schools graded these exams at off school sites (except for charter schools). However, there were a select few schools that were exempt from the Regents requirements and instead were allowed to submit a portfolio instead. These student portfolios were graded by the school's staff and usually by their own teacher! Not surprisingly, these schools showed higher graduation rates than schools of similar demographics. One school improved their graduation rate by 26% by replacing the Regents with the student portfolio option. Because, a school's grade is based upon the graduation rate, more schools wanted to replace the Regents requirements with the student portfolio option and who could blame them? Very quietly, the DOE has allowed 20 high schools to dodge the Regents exams. That is a 77% increase in schools that no longer use the Regents exams to determine graduation in the DOE's quest for a higher graduation rate.
The beneficiaries of the switch from Regents to portfolios were the International schools, who catered to recent immigrants with poor academic skills. While I personally have little problem with these schools supplementing the Regents requirements with a student portfolio option. I do question the widespread use of portfolios instead of a Regents exam and the portfolio grading structure that allows the school's own teachers to grade the student portfolio. Furthermore, I saw with my own eyes how one teacher at a International school rewrote the student's portfolio and then graded her own work as if it was done by the student. Do you think the student's portfolio passed? Finally, I question the use of the portfolio option when it comes to higher education. If these students need to use the portfolio option, how in the world will they succeed in college where testing is required? Are we pushing them into no-credit remedial courses in a two year community college only for them to drop out because of their inability to show mastery of the subject through testing?
The State Regents exams are used by colleges to show a student's mastery in that subject and replacing it with the student portfolio option allows for potential academic fraud and the inability of these students to succeed in college. Let's make the portfolio option more stringent and only used in conjunction with Regents exams to determine the real graduation rate of these schools.