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Meeting of the Board of Regents | April 2003

Tuesday, April 1, 2003 - 4:35am




The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


James A. Kadamus


Full Board


School Report Card Data


April 15, 2003




Monitoring of Policy Implementation


Goals 1 and 2



On April 10, Commissioner Mills publicly released this year�s statewide school report card data. Starting with this year, we have more information on more students, such as achievement on Regents exams by race/ethnicity. While the achievement gap is improving, many challenges remain. Major trends in the data show:

  • A large majority of students continue to pass Regents exams, even with the increased requirement of four exams.
  • Most minority students also are passing the required Regents exams, but the achievement gap widens as the performance level increases.
  • Annual high school graduation numbers remain stable even with higher standards.
  • Achievement is climbing as more students receive Regents diplomas (requiring students to pass eight Regents exams).
  • Significant gaps exist for poor and minority students, but there is improvement in some areas.
  • There is a continuing four-year trend of improvement on elementary English language arts and improvement in middle-level math after years of flat results.
  • Fewer students are scoring at Level 1 on all elementary and middle-level exams.
  • The gap achievement between poor and minority and all others increases as the performance levels increase, e.g., Level 2 to Level 4 on elementary and middle grade tests; 55 to 85 on Regents exams.

At your April meeting, I will review the attached analysis of the school report card results for 2002 and data and respond to any questions.


Why higher standards and Regents exams?

  • Beginning in the late 1980s, the public said that standards in many schools were too low. They said students were not well-prepared. Employers said jobs are requiring higher skills, while many new job applicants lacked high school reading, writing and other skills. While over 80% of New York State graduates attend college, colleges found that students had to take remedial courses to make up for what they did not learn in high school.
  • While some students took rigorous courses and Regents exams, others were tracked into low-level courses and received a local diploma by passing competency tests set at the 8th grade level.
  • In 1995, the Regents created a set of learning standards that were based on what students need to know and be able to do in order to complete higher education coursework without remediation and to obtain high-level jobs. Seven years later, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act that required all states to establish such standards.
  • In 1996, the Regents decided to phase out the competency tests and require Regents exams for all students to be phased-in over a nine-year period. The Regents exams measure students� ability to read and write at the high school level; understand and apply algebra and geometry; understand historical facts and trends for world history and U.S. history, as well as geography and government; and to acquire core scientific knowledge needed for the 21st century. The Regents also decided to test students at the 4th and 8th grade levels to measure their progress on the learning standards in reading, math, science and social studies.

What have been the results to date?

  • The previous two-track system of education in New York which had low expectations for high need students has been eliminated. Virtually all high school students now take the Regents exams. In four of the five required Regents exams, the number of students passing the exams in 2002 exceeded the total number of students taking them in 1999. [slides 2-6]
  • The cohort of general education students, who started high school in 1998 and were required to take four Regents exams, passed them at very high rates: English 89%; math 86%; global history 88%; and U.S. history and government 85%. The percentages were even higher for those students who started in 1998 and were seniors in 2002. [slides 7-8]
  • Students with disabilities, who never had to take Regents exams in the past, are now taking and passing these exams: 57% passed at 55 and above on English and 44% scored at 55 and above on math. [slides 9-10]
  • Many students are taking courses and Regents exams beyond the required exams. In 2002, 55% of the students passed eight Regents exams, including two in math and two in science compared to 40% in 1996. [slide 11]
  • Throughout this phase-in period of higher standards, the number of graduates from New York schools has remained stable. This means that students are rising to meet the challenges of higher standards rather than dropping out of school. [slide 12]

How have students done in meeting elementary and middle school standards?

  • Since 1999, there has been a steady rise in elementary English performance. In 2002, 61% of all 4th grade students fully met the learning standards and 92% had basic levels of proficiency on the State test in reading and writing. There has been a steady increase in this performance since 1999 among all types of schools and all subgroups of students. [slides 13-14]
  • Elementary math performance has continued to be high with 68% of 4th grade students fully meeting the standards and 93% achieving basic levels of proficiency in math. [slides 15-16]
  • Performance in middle schools was poor over the first few years of the 8th grade English and math tests. While less than half of 8th grade students statewide in 2002 (44%) fully achieved the 8th grade English standards, the percentage achieving basic proficiency has risen to 93% (meaning only 7% of 8th graders now score at Level 1 --not proficient). In 2002, there was a significant increase in the performance of 8th graders on math with 48% of students now achieving full proficiency. This increase occurred in all types of schools and among all subgroups of students. [slides 17-20]

Are there still gaps in student achievement?

  • In 2000, the Regents required all schools to begin to submit data by racial ethnic subgroups, disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English language learners. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act made this a requirement for all schools in the country.
  • These data have shown that there are significant gaps in achievement for poor and minority students at all levels in the system. These data have also shown that there are significant gaps in achievement between large urban districts and other districts in the State.
  • There is evidence, based on the data, that these gaps are small when we consider the number of students meeting minimum standards of passing the Regents. For example, 79% of Black and 75% of Hispanic students scored 55 or higher on the Regents English exam compared to 88% for all students. By contrast, 61% of Black and 58% of Hispanic students scored 65 or higher on the Regents English exam, compared to 80% for all students. [slide 21]
  • In another example, 86% of all disadvantaged students scored basic proficiency (Level 2) or higher on the 4th grade English exam compared to 97% of non-disadvantaged students in 2002. By contrast, 44% of disadvantaged students scored full proficiency (Level 3 or 4) compared to 77% of non-disadvantaged students in 2002. Both groups, however, showed improvement over previous years. [slide 22]

 What are the Regents doing to close the gap? [slides 23-25]

  • The Regents have been implementing a series of policies to close the performance gap. These include:
  • Requiring all students, including those with disabilities, to take the higher-level Regents curriculum and Regents exams.
  • Requiring schools to change middle school curriculum so that all students are better prepared to meet the learning standards.
  • Requiring all teachers to be certified in their subject area beginning in 2003.
  • Requiring that all students who score below full proficiency on 4th and 8th grade tests and who fail Regents exams receive extra help.
  • Advocating for additional funding for the highest need districts, especially the Big 5 cities, where there are the highest concentration of minority and disadvantaged students.
  • Implementing new regulations to upgrade the skills of school principals and superintendents which will enable them to lead schools to higher levels.
  • Implementing a new accountability system under the No Child Left Behind Act to ensure that all students receive instruction that will enable them to meet the standards. New York was one of the first states in the country to have its accountability plan approved.