Performance Assessment Schools Meet High Standards Without High-Stakes Regents Tests. That's the Truth! What are the Myths?

 

MYTH 1: If some schools administer performance assessments instead of Regents exams, all schools will want to use the same "escape hatch."

TRUTH: Rather than being an "escape hatch," performance assessment tasks, as used by the New York Performance Standards Consortium, are more challenging than Regents exams. In fact, tasks such as the literary essay, the original science experiment and the research paper not only meet, but exceed state standards.

MYTH 2: The Blue Ribbon Panel appointed by Commissioner Mills said that the Consortium schools did not meet state standards and should take all 5 Regents exams.

TRUTH: The Blue Ribbon Panel recommended that the Consortium schools' waiver from the Regents exams be continued for three more years while the State Education Department conducts a study of the Consortium schools and a matched sample of Regents schools.

MYTH 3: The five-year period specified in the waiver has expired.

TRUTH: Commissioner Tom Sobol, author of the waiver, states in a legal affidavit that, in the absence of a State Education Department study, the waiver should continue. The SED refused to conduct the study.

MYTH 4: Without Regents exams there is no accountability for performance assessment schools.

TRUTH: The Performance Assessment Review Board, Inc., an independent group of nationally recognized educators, oversees the work of Consortium schools to make sure they meet and exceed state standards.

MYTH 5: Regents exams are a scientific, objective measure of the skills students will need to succeed in college and at work.

TRUTH: Leading psychometricians have argued in sworn affidavits that the Regents exams violate the standards and practices of the testing industry. And college professors have found the tests to be a poor measure of the skills students need to succeed in college.

MYTH 6: By requiring all students to take the same Regents exams, the SED has eliminated a two-track system and raised expectations for all students.

TRUTH: Since the exams were imposed, the dropout rate has escalated. The two tracks still exist, but now one track consists of students dropping out of school. Students who are poor test takers are being counseled to leave high school rather than fail the test and lower their schools' test rates. Furthermore, component retesting has lowered standards for passing Regents exams.

MYTH 7: The 90 percent college acceptance rate for performance assessment schools is based on admission to low-level institutions.

TRUTH: Consortium students regularly attend some of the best public and private colleges and universities in the country, including CUNY and SUNY schools, as well as colleges like Amherst, Brown, Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Sarah Lawrence, Beloit, Reed, Evergreen, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Macalaster and others.

MYTH 8: If Consortium schools are so good, their students can do both: take the Regents exams and do the performance assessments.

TRUTH: Performance assessment is part of an entire system that includes everything from classroom interaction to teachers' professional development. The system does not include formulaic test prep. There is simply not the time to do both without trivializing the curriculum needed to do high-level performance assessment.

MYTH 9: The Regents exams measure the standards.

TRUTH: College admissions officers, professors and other experts have stated, "The only thing the tests test is the ability to take the test." They also say the test violates or ignores many of the State's own standards. For example, there is no "speaking" component on any of the Regents exams.