Friday, February 04, 2011

Students' Regents Test Scores Bulge at 65

Barbara Martinez with yet another important story on how the scoring on NY state's Regents exams is fishy around the pass/fail mark – not the slightest bit surprising when teachers are grading THEIR OWN STUDENTS! 

A Wall Street Journal analysis of high-school Regents test scores shows that a disproportionate percentage of New York City students barely got the passing score they needed to receive a diploma in the past two years, while very few received scores just below passing.

For the 2009 English Regents exams, for instance, students were more than five times as likely to get a 65—the minimum passing grade—than they were to score one point below. In the U.S. History and Government Regents, students were 14 times more likely to get a 65 than one point lower.

"There's no question that there's something fishy going on," said Jonah Rockoff, a professor at Columbia University's business school who frequently analyzes schools-related data sets.

In New York state, high-school teachers score their own students' tests—which differs from tests in most other states, as well as New York's own third- through eighth-grade tests. Mr. Rockoff, who reviewed the Regents data, said, "It looks like teachers are pushing kids over the edge. They are very reluctant to fail a kid who needs just one or two points to pass."

Can you imagine how little credibility AP exams would have if teachers graded their own students?!  That's not to say that the Regents exams are a sham, but clearly the grading for each student needs to be done by people outside of the school the student attends, which is exactly what David Steiner and John King are doing.

"Going forward," the state is moving toward an online computer-based testing and scoring system where responses that require teacher judgment would be randomly assigned to teachers across the state, said John King, deputy commissioner at the state department of education. The state is also working on raising graduation requirements, given that the state has determined that even a 65 doesn't indicate students are ready for college.

Of course, enemies of the reforms in NYC under Bloomberg and Klein will be quick to use this study (you can read it at: to discredit the gains in graduation rates, but that's not true, as the skewed grades around the pass/fail line have ALWAYS been there:

Some teachers said the pressure to receive a good grade from the city's Department of Education, which doles out A's through F's based on the number of students passing Regents tests, has driven them to be more generous on the scoring. The DOE has been trying to close schools that get lower grades.

But the concentration around 65s can be seen in other major New York cities, like Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo, where such school-accountability systems don't exist. Looking at past New York City data, Mr. Rockoff said the patterns around the score of 65 were "just as strong in 2000, so it's hard to argue that accountability under Bloomberg and Klein pushed teachers to pass more kids."


Students' Regents Test Scores Bulge at 65


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