Response to Memo on Expanded Pathways to Graduation

NYSED published their recent memo on expanded pathways to graduation.
The Regents will be discussing this during their webcast on Monday morning.  A revision to the memo will be posted during the week, any actions the Regents are prepared to take will be subject to a comment period.  The comment period and email address will be posted in the NYS Register the first Wednesday in February.
As always, the comments below are available to be copied and used in whole or in part for comments to the Regents and/or NYSED.
Thank you for listening to the concerned parents of NYS on the issues of students with disabilities being able to earn a high school diploma.   There is still much work to be done but we are cautiously optimistic.

Below are the collective thoughts of concerned parents in NYS on the options addressed in the memo on Enhanced Pathways to Graduation.

Option #1 the Appeal Criteria – if the waiver option is lowered to 60 for GenEd students, then please raise the point that it needs to be lowered to 50 for Special Education students.  There should also be more flexibility in the waiver process for ELL students.    The concern is that, while this would allow 4,000 students to graduate, it still is not enough to address the needs of many capable students who are differently abled and fall under the category of Special Education.
NYers are very much aware that the grading matrix (cut scores) for the Regents exams is a political manipulation. Ideally, the Regents exams should be restored to a 100 point system and the requirement of passing five Regents exams in order to graduate should be removed.
Option #2  Opening the CDOS to the entire student population is a step in the right direction but adding it to the 4 + 1 will not help students with dyslexia who will not make it through an ELA regents exam.    That is not to say that these students could not be engaged in the material on an ELA regents exam in a class discussion, video presentation or other venue.  Please keep in mind how much more complex reading is now on an ELA Common Core aligned Regents exam.  Many parents are advocating that the CDOS be recognized as a local diploma on its own, provided the students are capable of completing the required Regents classwork (less exams) and the required 22 credits.
Please keep in mind that the current model does allow for lazy but academically gifted students to graduate with less effort than hard working students with special education needs/learning disabilities.   Yes, we want to raise expectations for each child, but setting the same standards for each child does not meet that goal.
Option #3 Project based assessments –  This is the path that would provide the most flexibility for students across all populations.    Automotive HS, as an example, graduation should be based on performance based assessments in mechanics.    Yes, these students should still receive a well rounded education in Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies and Art, but their career readiness should be measured by skills in mechanics, logistics of running a business and business math.
Further on Project Based Assessments “Administration of PBA in a computerized and supervised testing situation” would subject our children to data-mining and tracking that parents in NY have already pushed back against.    Our vision is for our differently abled children to be challenged in areas of strength.  NYSED’s vision is to have our differently abled children spend hours on end trying to meet standards in a Computer Based Testing environment where every key stroke is tracked.    This is not an enriched education.
“If the Board of Regents supports the development of Project Based Assessments, there are additional policy decisions which need to be discussed at a future date, such as how many times a student must attempt to pass a Regents exam prior to the option of the PBA, and to identify the other conditions, if any, that must be met prior to a student having the option to take a PBA (e.g., attendance; passing grades). Additional resources will be necessary to implement PBAs across the State. “
NYS parents have grave concerns over the continued push by NYSED to determine an individual student’s needs and abilities from a distance.   NYS parents of special education students want an end to the test and punish cycle.  Setting policy on how many times a students has to fail a Regents exam will prolong it.  We do not need the state to force our children into a cycle of failure.   It is unfortunate enough for these students that the USDOE will push for them to be tested once in ELA, Math and Science.  There is no need to mandate a specific number of times.
 At the high school level, testing will still exist for all students under ESSA, at least for Math, ELA and Science.    It is imperative that NYSED stop scheduling Regents exams so that special education students are tested up to 12 hours in a single day.  Yes, there is a waiver process to start both exams on one day and finish the next day, however very few people are aware of the waiver even though it has been in place for years.  It is also a disruptive testing process as students may need to refer back to material on a part of the test that is no longer available to them on the second day.  Algebra 1, Global History and Geography, ELA, US History need to be scheduled on four different days.  Earth Science and Living Environment should be scheduled on a fifth and sixth day.
The math standards for high school do need to be restored to sequential, linear standards.  The current standards for HS, that are aligned with Common Core, are disjointed and confusing for students.  We have found topic areas where Algebra 2 standards are addressed prior to Algebra 1 standards.  Please see this petition for more thoughts on HS math standards.
Thank you all for your support in this effort to properly align graduation, college and career readiness skills with a student’s passions and strengths.   I had hoped to attend this week’s Regents meeting, but am unable to travel on Monday.  Rest assured, I will be watching the webcast.
Christine Zirkelbach

NYS HS Math standards petition


This is the final text of the petition.


We, the dedicated parents of New York State public high school students, joined by concerned citizens of New York State, being voters and tax payers here in New York State, hereby declare that our high school aged children have been harmed, and continue to be harmed, by the Common Core Reform Agenda. We further declare that the NYS Board of Regents, NYSED, and the NYS Legislature have acted negligently and with dereliction toward our high school aged children – the student population with the most onerous graduation requirements — by failing to acknowledge, evaluate, and cure the education havoc that the Common Core Reform Agenda has inflicted and continues to inflict on these children. As such, we demand that such negligence and inattention cease immediately, and that the NYS Board of Regents, NYSED, and NYS Legislature take immediate steps to focus on our high school aged children, as it has on our grades 3-8 children over the past few years, as evidenced by the Governor’s recent Common Core Task Force hearings, report, and recommendations; various statutes passed and regulations promulgated; etc. To wit (in no particular order of importance):

* Restore the credibility, reliability, and validity of the three NYS math Regents Exams;

* Remove the high-stakes of having to pass a Common Core-aligned NYS math Regents Exam as a graduation requirement;

* Restore the substantive Trigonometry components of the former NYS Learning Standards;

* Ensure that the Common Core-aligned NYS Learning Standards are comprised of math standards that promote and ensure proper sequential and linear math instruction; and

* Ensure that colleges and universities in the SUNY system provide correct information to the public regarding the various math prerequisites required for the application process and admissions.

We are outraged at the severe educational reforms and swings to which our children have been subjected ever since Common Core was implemented here in New York State. Four years of these damaging reforms have wreaked havoc on, and harmed, an entire generation of NYS public school children. The past two years, in particular, have seen harm done to children in our public high schools, as they have been subjected to convoluted and out-of-sequence math curricula, and flawed Common Core-aligned math Regents Exams, with the result being increased numbers of failures and severely degraded GPAs. See, for example: ho

We demand that these education reforms be halted immediately, and that immediate attention be given to correcting/reversing these damaging changes that will assuredly continue to cripple our children’s chances of obtaining entrance to college and, beyond that, their chosen careers.

We demand that the high school level Mathematics standards be critically reviewed and revised immediately, by qualified NYS educators who possess no less than ten (10) years of relevant classroom teaching experience. College professors should be invited to provide input on issues of remediation in mathematics, and the skills that high school students will require for college readiness. There should be NO input from corporations or “experts” who do not have actual classroom experience.

We demand that the three (3) mathematics NYS Regents Exams immediately cease to be aligned to the Common Core, as such HAS resulted in flawed and poorly designed exams. The integrity of the Regents Exams should be restored to fair tests with proven test questions and clearly dictated standards to be met at each of the three (3) exam levels.

We demand an immediate end to the politically-motivated manipulation of cut scores on all NYS tests, including the grades 3-8 state assessments and all NYS Regents Exams, as this has rendered as meaningless the entire purpose of taking the exams. Approximately one-third (1/3) of all NYS 8th graders met proficiency on the 8th grade 2015 NYS math assessment. These same 8th graders are now expected to meet proficiency on the NYS 9th grade Common Core-aligned Algebra 1 Regents Exam or risk not being able to graduate. It is unacceptable when NYSED manipulates cut scores either to prove that students are not meeting proficiency, or to prevent students from failing a high-stakes math test required for graduation.

We demand the immediate restoration of the 100-point Regents Exam for math, as well as the immediate end to cut scores where a score of 35 equals a passing score of 65, yet higher scores are curved downward. This latter point (higher scores curved downward) is especially detrimental to children in districts that incorporate Regents Exam scores into a child’s GPA.

We demand that NYS Regents Exams cease to be high-stakes exit exams for our children. The USDOE is very clear that using mandated exams at the high school level is a state decision. Students outside of NYS are regularly accepted to NYS colleges/universities without having to meet the burden that OUR children have of passing five (5) Regents Exams in order to graduate and earn a diploma, in addition to passing three (3) Regents Exams in mathematics. This requirement unfairly pits NYS students/residents against competition from outside of the State.

We demand that the NYS Board of Regents meet immediately, and seriously discuss and address, the issues facing our high school students: the changes in the former Algebra 2/Trig

course to the Common Core-aligned Algebra 2 course, and associated problems/issues; the arbitrary changes to our students’ mathematics Regents Exams in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, and resulting skewed cut scores and meaningless results; and more:

o There are wild variations from district to district in how Common Core-aligned Algebra 2 is being taught. Some districts are using error-riddled textbooks, others are using error-riddled modules, others have designed their own curriculum and, finally, a few districts are still teaching the old Algebra2/Trig course because they assumed the Regents would again approve the giving of both Regents Exams. This inconsistency is patently unfair and is due strictly to the haphazard and poor planning of the Board of Regents and NYSED, and the lack of foresight that these changes have had/are having on our children’s futures.

o By contrast to the former NYS Learning Standards, the arithmetic and mathematics standards under the Common Core are disjointed and out of sequence/order; arithmetic and mathematics are no longer being taught in a sequential and linear way across all grades. This becomes particularly problematic at the high school level as our students are not being properly prepared for college level mathematics, nor are they building a strong foundation in mathematics. For example, Trigonometry is buried in Geometry standards and in the Function standards. In subtopics, 11th grade math standards have been placed prior to what would have been an 8th grade standard just a few years ago. We expect our students to be taught math following a sequential and linear methodology. See, for example:

o We expect the NYS Learning Standards for math to be clearly aligned with the expectations for the relevant Regents Exams. Currently there are six topics in the high school level Common Core math standards. They are Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability. There is no clear path from these standards to the high-stakes math Regents Exam material.

o What was formerly over sixty (60) days of Trigonometry instruction has been reduced to just 11 to 20 days of curriculum in Algebra 2, depending upon the school district. 11-20 days of Trigonometry instruction is insufficient; the ACT exams still have Trigonometry, and many college professors agree that paltry amount of Trigonometry is inadequate preparation for college — especially for students pursuing the STEM fields (for which Common Core purportedly was created).

In order to make up for this curriculum deficit in Trigonometry, and understanding that these deficits may/will harm their chances of entering the college/university of their choice, current NYS 11th grade students have been forced to find ways to compensate for what once

was, but is no longer being, taught in school: they are actually taking high school Algebra at community colleges, because THAT is where these students can get real instruction in Algebra 2/Trig. Repeat: high school students are going to community college in order to be able to pass their high school math class, and then to sit for a college entrance exam so that they can enter a 4-year college. This is LUDICROUS. Some school districts have been forced to compensate for this deficit by offering a specific course in Trigonometry. Your decision to alter our children’s Algebra 2 Regents Exam has forced aware NYS parents to seek and pay for outside instruction, and has forced our children to attend yet another class during their already-limited free time in order to obtain the authentic education needed to succeed in their chosen field. Furthermore, despite promises that Common Core will close the achievement gap, it is already documented that the gap is widening. Parents who are aware of the problems with the Common Core curriculum, and who possess the means, have and will find ways to compensate for the shortcomings, whether with community college classes or tutors – thereby further widening the achievement gap.

At present, certain colleges still expect matriculating students to have a solid foundation in Trigonometry. However, reality will hit very soon, and they may be forced to lower their admissions standards in recognition of the deficits of the Common Core standards, and/or may be forced to accept students who have taken only Algebra 2, with no solid understanding of Trigonometry. Woe to the NYS students who will be penalized by Common Core Algebra 2. In the meantime, the guessing game is not one that many NYS parents are willing to play with respect to their children’s futures.

o We anticipate an increase in the need for remediation in math for our high school students. Regents Exams in mathematics have been administered with flawed questions, overly zealous cut scores, and the Common Core math standards are not a true path to college readiness, as stated by Jason Zimba, one of the architects of the Common Core math standards. This truly contradicts the mantra of raising our standards.

o The NCAA has refused to approve NYS Algebra 2 courses as meeting their standards for college readiness for potential athletes hoping to play in Division 1 or Division 2 college sports. The result has been school districts adding additional courses in Trigonometry, renaming Algebra 2 to something acceptable, or parents seeking proper course work in Algebra 2/Trigonometry at local community colleges.

o In response to parental inquiry, SUNY universities are giving inconsistent information regarding a high school Trigonometry prerequisite. Parents cannot trust an educational system that has not ensured that ALL of our SUNY schools are clear on the expectations for the

graduating class of 2017 and beyond. This year’s 11th grade cohort is now looking at colleges and is receiving confusing and mixed messages from the SUNY system. This is unacceptable.

Prior to Common Core, our high school students received a well-rounded, coherent, high-quality education that met college-level expectations and admissions requirements, did not require our children (and parents) to seek outside instruction in order to compensate for curriculum deficits and gaps, and did not create havoc in, and do harm to, our children’s educational lives. We demand that type of education be restored to our high school students. Anything less is a dereliction of the State’s responsibilities to our children. Our school districts are taking direct action via your lead, and the leadership from the Board of Regents has been haphazard, arbitrary, and deleterious. We expect an immediate halt to, and correction of, the harms listed above, so that our children can experience a proper high school education and be prepared for college and life.