Test Taking Gets Even Worse

16 Apr

GST BOCES idea to “ensure the integrity” of Regents Exams

By Caitlin Connelly

Disappointment, frustration, and confusion filled the room of the two advanced English classes as their January Regents scores were revealed to them earlier this year. These students normally receive high 90s, yet several of the exams exhibited scores much lower.

Out of the 29 students that took the Comprehensive English Exam, 12 of the advanced students received below an 85, making them ineligible, according to the school’s policy, to take an advanced English class the following year.

“That can’t be my grade,” thought AP English student Emily Doppel as she viewed her grade for the first time. She knew several students from past classes who had easily scored near a 97, and couldn’t understand why she had not excelled just as they had.

These students must retake the exam in June, hoping for a different and much better outcome than before.

The Regents Examination is entirely skilled based, said AP English teacher Mrs. Lasko. It does not reflect knowledge of course content, nor reflect how well students perform in school. Lasko finds the exams to be more of an obstacle to the students’ learning, making them live up to the state’s goals, rather than ones the teachers would like to reach.

Although the Regents have been an obstacle to the students, their scores were not completely due to their own
performances. Regional scoring, the new method of grading the exams, has been called into question, too.

“At the September 2011 Board of Regents Meeting, a committee was formed and charged with developing a system to ensure the integrity of the State’s exams,” said Jackie Spencer, Executive Director of Instructional Support Services for GST BOCES.

This committee recommended several proposals regarding proctoring, scanning, and scoring the exams. Among those
proposals, teachers could no longer grade their own students’ exams. All districts this applied to had to find an alternative method of scoring, so 13 of the 21 districts in the GST BOCES region transitioned to “regional scoring” for their January 2013 Regents Examinations.

In regional scoring, the teachers that grade the exams are chosen by each district to meet and work with other districts at a specified location to score the exams together. Any English teacher or teacher familiar with the English curriculum (including special education) can grade the exams. However, teachers in special education may lack the familiarity with some books students chose to write about in their essays.

The English Department at Watkins Glen made the conclusion that major flaws existed with regional scoring in light of such unexpected grades from advanced students.

The Phase 4 English teacher, Ms. Muir, had misgivings about the grading system far before they viewed the scores. The grading setting was too loud with too many representatives of different districts together at once. Although there was a man advising the graders, he knew no more than the scorers, and was only there because the state requested a supervisor to be there and nobody else had offered. Overall, the system was unprofessional and poorly run, said Ms. Muir.

The English teachers reviewed the exams after they had been graded and found that even essays that displayed advanced writing skills got an average score (4 out of a possible 6). Even when all aspects of the tasks for the essay were covered, a student had received a 2. It was clear that the exams needed to be checked again.

An excerpt from one of WGHS's essays that was scored as a 2 out of 6.
An excerpt from a WGHS student essay that was scored as a 2 out of 6 this January.
The example provided in the Comprehensive English Rating Guide for a level 2 essay.
An excerpt from the example provided in the Comprehensive English Rating Guide for a level 2 essay.

The exams were sent to Linda Perry, the Supervisor of Instructional Support Services for GST BOCES. Perry had taught English for 12 years before becoming a regional trainer, leading scoring training for Grades 3-8 State Exams and Regents Exams.

Perry began with scoring a practice set of essays provided by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and after she graded them accurately, began to score the Watkins Glen students’ exams. She left the original scores in a sealed envelope as she graded them.

“Once I was done, I got the sealed scores from Jackie Spencer and we compared my ratings to those given at the regional scoring site. We were pleased with the consistency,” said Perry.
Because of the “consistent” scores found with Perry’s informal review, the Regents exams were not sent to be formally re-graded. Many of the juniors will be taking the exam again in June to qualify to take AP or ACE English their senior year.

The reliability of regional scoring is still questionable for future Regents Exams, but no major changes are being made that will affect the accuracy of this grading system. Unfortunately for future Regents test-takers, there’s no way to predict the trustworthiness of this system. However, BOCES seems to believe the system is flawless.


One Response to “Test Taking Gets Even Worse”

  1. Mrs. Lasko April 25, 2013 at 1:56 am #

    Great job, Caitlin!! Well researched and written!

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