Home Room, September 19, 2011

Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 10:18 am by

In this post:

  • Cheating
  • State revenues short of projections
  • Obama Jobs Bill — Implications for New York schools
  • Governor to sign bill requiring new school procedures on head injuries
  • Blue Ribbon Schools in New York State
  • Teacher evaluation in New York City


The big education policy news last week concerned cheating on standardized tests and the state’s response – or its strategy to prevent a large scale scandal here.

The State Board of Regents adopted a plan to improve security on New York’s testing regimen, from grades 3 through 8 and including high school Regents Exams.

The initial steps require each specific test to be conducted on the same day across the state and expanding to all state tests the requirements that teachers and administrators certify that they will follow security protocols.

As the remaining steps, the Regents directed State Education Department staff to develop proposals for discussion at their October meeting.

One proposal for October consideration would implement centralized scanning and scoring of all multiple choice questions.

Another would require districts to prohibit teachers from scoring and proctoring exams for their own students.  Teachers would also be barred from proctoring exams in their certification area.

Another would create an online scoring “platform” – open-ended responses would be scanned then posted to a protected site for anonymous scoring by experienced scorers.

Finally, SED notes that New York is a member of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a collection of states which received federal funding to develop new assessment systems aligned to the new Common Core State Standards.

The Department observes, “One of the hallmarks of the PARCC design is that it is a computer-based test; PARCC is working to ensure that as much of the assessment as possible can be machine-scored.”

The Council has not yet adopted positions on the elements of the Regents’ plan.

Some districts, but not all, have raised practical concerns about their capacity to administer all tests on a single date, especially if all grade levels are required to be tested on a single date.

Some also say that would have difficulty complying with not allowing teachers to score their own students’ tests or proctor exams in their certification area.

Moving to centralized scoring would create significant costs for the state, which recently had to find private funding to resurrect January Regents Exams.

Districts make expenditures for local scoring now.  Centralized scoring might cost less in the aggregate, as SED contends.  But where would the money come from to enable the shift?

Some other key questions are:

  • Is the solution proportionate to the problem?
  • Are there less costly alternatives?
  • What are the vulnerabilities of the state’s current approach?  We have not had a scandal of the magnitude that has hit Atlanta and other cities – yet.
  • How do New York’s practices compare with those of other states, and with “best practices,” to the extent they have been identified?
  • Given that computer-adapted testing as envisioned by the PARCC project would foreclose at least some opportunities for cheating, would expenditures to move to centralized scanning and scoring now support that eventual transition?


State revenues short of projections

Last week, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released his regular monthly “cash report” for August.

While tax collections are well ahead from a year ago, they are now short of the levels assumed by the enacted state budget, by $75.7 million.

The Comptroller said,

Revenue collections, as anticipated, have grown from last year.  Still, the Blue Chip consensus economic forecasts for growth continue to be revised downward, raising concerns for the remainder of the fiscal year. We should be prepared for the possibility that revenue growth may falter, requiring downward adjustments to the Financial Plan.

The Comptroller’s news release also noted,

The growth in tax collections was primarily associated with robust estimated tax settlements based on 2010 earnings that are unlikely to be repeated in the coming months.

The shortfall for the current state fiscal year remains slight, measured against total state general fund spending of $55 billion.

But it may present worrisome implications for the next state budget cycle.


Obama Jobs Bill — Implications for New York schools

The “American Jobs Act” proposed by President Obama two weeks ago would provide $30 million nationwide to prevent teacher layoffs and another $25 billion to modernize school buildings, including both repairs and upgrades to promote technology, energy efficiency, and health and safety.

The Administration estimates that New York will receive over $1.7 billion to support up to 18,000 educator and “first responder” (police, fire and emergency personnel) jobs.

New York would receive $2 billion for the school modernization initiative.  Almost 40 percent of the nationwide funding would be targeted to the 100 largest high-need school districts; these would include at least some of the Big 5 Cities.

The remaining 60 percent would be allocated among states based on Title I shares and, “States would direct half the funding to local school districts on a formula basis, and the other half through an application process in the most high-need districts, with a priority for rural districts.”


Governor to sign bill requiring new school procedures on head injuries

Governor Cuomo has announced that he will sign legislation establishing new requirements for how schools are to handle student-athletes who have suffered head injuries.

Gannett News explains,

The legislation will prevent students from returning to play until they have been without symptoms for at least one day and have been cleared by a physician. It also requires education and training for coaches, teachers and other school personnel on the symptoms and treatment of mild traumatic brain injuries.


The legislation will require the state Education and Health departments to develop guidelines for recognizing and monitoring concussions, and protocols for removing students from play and clearing them to return. Those departments and local school districts will have to post information about concussions on their websites and on any consent forms for parents.


Blue Ribbon Schools

The U.S. Education Department has recognized 19 New York schools as Blue Ribbon Schools.

The Department’s news release explains,

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, honors public and private schools based on one of two criteria:

1) Schools whose students are high performing. These are schools ranked among each state’s highest performing schools as measured by their performance on state assessments… or

2) Schools with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that improve student performance to high levels as measured by the school’s performance on state assessments…

The chosen schools stretch across New York State, from Long Island to the Buffalo suburbs.


Teacher evaluation in New York City

The New York City Department of Education has announced that it will no longer conduct its own effort to rate its teachers based on student test scores, concluding that the new state evaluation law will make its local process redundant.

The New York Times referred to this as “a surprise twist to one of the most contentious issues facing the city’s teaching force.”

The Times, explains,

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city’s chief academic officer, said the new law made the city’s rankings, known as Teacher Data Reports, no longer necessary.

“Already, we’re working with the state to ensure their reports will be fair to teachers, and take account of factors like poverty and race,” Mr. Polakow-Suransky said. “This is just one of multiple measures we will use to evaluate teachers, and there’s no need to duplicate the state’s efforts.”

City teacher union president Michael Mulgrew welcomed the news.  Relations between the union and the City have generally calmed since the move of Dennis Walcott into the Chancellor’s post, as GothamSchools.org reports.

The Times article notes that SED has awarded American Institutes for Research (AIR) a $2.7 million contract to develop methodologies and measures for the student growth component of the State’s new teacher/principal evaluation system.

So it was surprising to read these comments from an AIR official in the Times article,

“That sort of model will give you a description of how students in a teacher’s class perform,” said Jon Cohen, the institute’s chief statistician and executive vice president, of the model set for 2012. “It’s a stretch from there to attributing that growth to the teacher.”

This seems contrary to what AIR said in its news release announcing the contract.

On another note, last week the Board of Regents formally voted to appeal the ruling of a state judge invalidating portions of the teacher/principal evaluation regulations.




This entry was posted on Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 10:18 am and is filed under Legislation, New York Success Stories, Standards & Assessments, State Budget. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.