Summer’s finally here, but just weeks ago students in schools across New York completed state tests that carry bigger stakes than ever before. This is the first year that test scores will feed into teacher evaluations, and with the tests now aligned with the new Common Core curriculum, many observers believe passing rates will decline.
The push-back against testing and increased accountability has grown, and it’s easy to see why. Students, families and schools have seen passing rates decline, felt more pressure to increase performance and wondered whether testing now gets too big a space in education. It’s worth revisiting why and how these changes came about, and examining the long-term trend in performance.
Read more »
New York State has been working to make a high school diploma meaningful for most of the past two decades, and the work continues. Since a push toward higher standards began in the mid-1990s, the state tightened graduation requirements twice: first requiring all students to pass 5 Regents exams, then increasing the minimum score to pass from 55 to 65.
Many feared graduation rates would plummet, but recently released data showed they’ve mostly held steady or increased. In the last five years, as the 65 minimum score was applied to more and more tests, the statewide graduation rate increased from 69% to 74%. New York City gained 8 points, rising from 53% to 61%, and the combined rate for students of the 4 next largest cities (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) also increased from 47% to 53%. Rochester’s performance remained the lowest of the five, with a graduation rate of 46% in 2011.
At the same time, the federal government has gotten tougher about how states are to calculate graduation rates. Starting with the class of 2010, schools had to include every student in their building for even one day in their graduation cohort – the previous threshold had been 5 months. That means schools are held accountable for those students – those who moved or transferred don’t count against them, but missing students are considered dropouts. Read more »
Despite pledging in 2010 to reform the process of drawing new lines for state legislative districts, lawmakers instead employed the usual process where they themselves make the maps. And the results, released a few weeks ago, were entirely predictable: The proposed maps would likely enhance the current partisan dominance in each house.
In Rochester, this preserves what is an unnecessary fragmentation of the City of Rochester into multiple state Senate districts—three in the current map and four under the proposed maps. It seems indisputable that the interests of an aging urban center and its residents differ sharply from those of suburban or rural communities. The current and proposed maps significantly dilute the voice of the City and its residents. Adding a fourth district leads to an even more curious outcome: the reconfigured District 61 puts the University of Rochester, one of the key drivers of the Greater Rochester economy, into the same district as the University of Buffalo. And the new lines for District 59 places RIT into another Erie County-dominated district. As Tom Richards, Mayor of Rochester, observed at the recent Rochester redistricting hearing, the state’s new economic development model is a competitive one—while we may have common cause with Buffalo in Washington, we certainly compete with Buffalo in Albany. See the City’s analysis here.
Read more »
Shouldn’t we at least talk about the notion of capping school property taxes?
A recent poll found 74% of New Yorkers think it’s a good idea. A commission appointed by our previous governor recommended it after several months of study and more than a dozen public meetings around the state.
And yet, the state Legislature is poised to adjourn for the year without seriously considering the idea. There were no legislative hearings on the commission’s report, and Gov. David Paterson couldn’t even get his bill to cap property taxes introduced in the Legislature.
Whether or not you think capping school property taxes is a good idea (full disclosure: I do), what does it say about our legislative process that an idea with such broad appeal addressing a problem that is clearly impacting on millions of New York residents isn’t taken seriously by our lawmakers?
Read more »