Friday, April 3, 2015

High School Students in NYS Being Demoralized by New Graduation Requirements and Tests by Susan Ryan Murphy

Every few months, I add my perspective as a high school teacher to this fight. I always get a healthy dose of "likes" and I always get attacked for not understanding what damage is being done to our youngest students. I do understand ... more than you know. .
When will we switch the focus to the high school Regents and graduation requirements? Or add this problem to our focus? Are we fighting for all kids? Or is Meryl Tisch right ... is it just about appeasing the high performing districts? How many of the 60,000 or 250,000 opt outs will have trouble passing the high school Regents exams? How many will easily pass those and the AP exams also? How many will pass all of their high school classes and also earn 3-30 college credits? And yet, our weakest students (many of whom are not special ed students) cannot meet these new requirements. Some will take Algebra 1 as a three-year course sequence (earning 3 credits) ... and never be able to get a 65 on the Regents ... or an 80 as the new regulations require. (And we are complaining about the kids who are taking the Algebra Regents in 8th grade but will also have to sit for the math 8 test.) What about the student who enters 9th grade that reads and writes below grade level? Sometimes 3, 4, 5, 6 grades below grade level? Will they ever be able to score a 75 on the English Regents ... a 26 page test with reading passages on grade 14? Like the passage written by Stephen Hawking about String Theory in physics?
Realize that these are students who could have passed the old Regents exams and who definitely could have passed the RCT exams. Students who could have passed the old GED exam, but probably won't pass the new GED or TASC exam. Students who used to be able to tough it out and graduate ... but now the bar is just too high.
How many parents and teachers will fight for these students? How many BATs and Opt Out parents will lobby Albany for a change in the graduation requirements? How many will fight for a Regents or RCT that is fair for the bottom of the class? People are fighting for special ed exemptions ... but what about the kids who have no IEP but struggle with math or reading or test anxiety? What about the kids who struggle with depression or live in dysfunction? Will we fill the Million Dollar staircase for them? Will we organize a protest in Manhattan for them? Will we call our legislators and the Regents to ask for change? Or is the fight not really about the kids who struggle academically? Is Meryl Tisch right?