24 May 2013

I am glad we don't do Regents

Here is a recent letter concerning Regent Exams and a teacher's SLO score (forgive the formatting; it is copied from a PDF).

May 24, 2013
Dr. John B. King, Jr.
New York State Commissioner of Education
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue Albany, NY 12234

Dear Commissioner King:

I am writing in response to Ken Slentz’s letter of May 22, 2013, in which he attempts to clarify some of the questions and concerns still remaining around the scoring of SLOs. While the memo might have sought to clarify, I assure you the field questions SED making this change particularly this late in the school year. The SED memo contradicts previous guidance on this issue to practitioners. This latest change in direction is yet another example of the Department’s failure to communicate with those most directly impacted by the changes. The lack of professional regard for practitioners is apparent, further eroding the tenuous relationship SED has with those in the field. As to NYSUT’s concerns: The understanding in the field since September, based on SED guidance, was that if a student does not sit for a Regents exam, there would not exist a second set of data from which to calculate a growth score for the student and, therefore, the student would not be counted in a teacher’s SLO. SED has now made a distinction between being absent on the day of the assessment and not qualifying to sit for the exam. This distinction is contrary to how these students are treated on the New York State School Report Card Student Performance Science Regents Data. This new determination will affect science teachers exclusively. SED’s letter states that students who do not qualify to sit for a Regents exam because they did not meet the minimum number of required lab hours would still count in a teacher’s SLO HEDI results. In this case, the student would receive a ‘0’ and that ‘0’ would be factored into the teacher’s final summative SLO rating. This rule puts Regents-level science teachers at a huge disadvantage across the state because they are the only group of teachers with a mandatory lab requirement. Only science Regents courses have a qualifying requirement that is out of the teacher’s control. A student could be failing other courses and still take the Regents and possibly score well. The science students who don’t qualify because of the lab requirement might be passing the course, and if they were permitted to take the Regents exam, they might do well.

Assigning a zero to something that was not completed unfairly skews the statistical results that are so important to accurately measure the variable at hand (in this case teacher effectiveness). A student who fails to meet the qualifying lab requirement is disqualified from demonstrating his/her knowledge of the subject content and that disqualification now requires the teacher to receive a ‘0’ for that student’s score. The ‘0’ says nothing about the teacher’s effectiveness because there is no assessment to measure student content knowledge. It is based solely on a student meeting the lab requirement. SED guidance on SLO’s has been lacking in detail, and much of the responsibility for the SLO process has been passed to districts. It is no wonder that this “rule” has the field up in arms as it conflicts with SED’s limited guidance on SLOs (revised March 2012) which states that SLOs must measure two points in time for the same student. More recently on the EngageNY web site, the May 9 webinar ( states in at least three places that a student must have two data points – a pre-assessment and a postassessment – in order to be factored into a teacher’s SLO. At the 10:45-10:53 minute mark, the webinar states: "Only where students do not have two scores will they be uncounted for purposes of calculating (SLO) outcomes." If a student does not take a post-assessment, then she/he will not have these two data points. Throughout the guidance, there is no distinction made between the reasons for not having two scores, and there is no reference to not qualifying to sit for the assessment. To further support the understanding in the field, at the May NTI training, a BOCES NTI team determined that they all had similar interpretations of the issue and shared the following on the Science listserv: “Our best thinking is that the language states that calculating the SLO requires data from two points in time. If students cannot sit for the exam, they are not calculated in the SLO.” SED goes on to say, in their letter to NYSUT, that it is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that all students meet the lab time requirements so that they are able to sit for the Regents exam. This statement shows the gross lack of understanding of the fact that often the teacher of the Regents course is not the lab teacher. The letter further states that, “The Department recommends that districts/BOCES create processes that ensure students have opportunities to make up lab requirements.” Again, SED seems to be unaware of how districts schedule for these labs and the resources they provide to students throughout the year. Districts build into the school schedule more than the necessary minutes to meet the lab requirement of 1,200 minutes. Teachers offer make-up lab times to students during study halls, lunch and after school. The reasons students do not meet the lab requirement are predominantly out of the control of the educator.

SED is instituting a policy change at the eleventh hour that contradicts their own guidance. This places science teachers in New York State at an unfair disadvantage. There is a readily available solution: Students who do not qualify to sit for a Regents exam because they did not meet the minimum number of required lab hours should not count in a teacher’s SLO HEDI results. To say that teachers are dismayed by this latest reversal in policy would be a gross understatement. This takes the already strained relationship that exists between SED and practitioners to a new level. Our intent with this letter is, to once again, urge SED to exercise common sense. NYSUT urges SED to re-evaluate this latest change and make it consistent with all previous guidance.


Maria Neira c: Members of the Board of Regents Ken Slentz, Deputy Commissioner

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