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Thursday, January 15, 2015
The 65% Passing Rate Bulge.
Back in 2011 the Wall Street Journal published a report that showed there was a significant 65% bulge in Regents scores throughout New York State and for all subjects. In New York City the 65% Regents bulge was even greater. For instance, the 2009 English Regents passing grade with a 65% was over five times higher than those who received a 64%. More importantly in Social Studies the Regents passing grade of 65% was an astounding fourteen times higher than those who ended up with a 64%. The uproar over the 65% bulge resulted in the State recommending that the Regents scoring be done by teachers who don't teach their students while the City decided to go one step further by requiring that Regents scoring be held outside the school entirely. The first results from the City showed a 50% reduction in the 65% passing Regents bulge the year after some schools were required to follow the new procedures and an additional 50% drop the next year when all New York City public schools were required to follow the new rules. Interestingly, the Bloomberg Administration exempted charter schools from the new requirements and the De Blasio Administration has not changed the policy that allows charter school teachers to score their own students Regents.
That brings me to the 65% passing bulge for the final school grade and the grading policy of the schools that pressures teachers to pass students that don't deserve to pass so that the school can show an artificially high graduation rate and grade on their progress reports. Teacher after teacher tells me their stories about the administration demanding a 80% to 90% passing rate for their classes, including students who are on the class roster but have stopped attending the class. Moreover, many schools refuse to allow teachers to give the student lower than 50% as a grade, despite these students seldom showing up or fails to bother to do any work whatsoever. Some schools limit the failing grade to 55% and then allow many of these otherwise failing students to take "credit recovery" courses or alternate projects to pass the class, usually over the objections of the teacher. I suspect the more a school struggles academically, the bigger the 65% passing bulge is for that school.
One teacher, whistle blower Philip Noblie has championed for an in-depth investigation of the 65% passing bulge, similar to his complaint in the infamous Cobble Hill Regents cheating scandal that found, or not found the school administration guilty of a massive coverup, depending on the investigator and the politics played in the investigations that might have gone up as far as the District Superintendent, yes, the now Chancellor, Carmen Farina. Will the DOE actually look at the 65% passing bulge? Highly unlikely, if you ask me. Why question the ever increasing graduation rates that, on further inspection, would show that many of these high school graduates can't even fill out a job application, posses appropriate work skills, or make it in college after wasting a year taking remedial courses for no credits?
I personally have little doubt that there is a significant 65% bulge as schools are incentivized to pass as many students they can to improve the school's standing at the expense of the academic reputation of the school when these graduates are unable to function in the adult world. But then again, the DOE only cares about the graduation statistics and not whether the student was truly academically proficient to function in the real world.