Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Visions /Garbage Diplomas

The New York Post reports that D.C.-based Policy Studies Associates compared 10 traditional public schools with 10 New Century high schools that are operated by the education reform group New Visions for Public Schools.

The comparison found that while the New Century high schools had a higher graduation rate than the traditional public schools (78.2% to 60.6%), more than half of the students who graduated from New Century schools received "local diplomas," which require a score of 55 on state Regents exams rather than 65.

In contrast, only about 30% of the students who graduated from the traditional public schools received local diplomas.

New York State is scrapping local diplomas next year. At the school where I teach, nearly every student we graduate receives a Regents diploma, even if that means we have to test students 2, 3 or 4 times on a Regents exam after extensive tutoring to help them get a score of 65 or higher.

I know this because I often teach the remedial ELA Regents class for students who have sat for the Regents and received a score between 55 and 64.

You see, the administration where I teach believes the "local diploma" (which most 4 year colleges outside of the proprietary variety will not accept) is essentially worthless.

Apparently the education reformers at New Century schools and New Visions for Public Schools don't quite see it that way, however.

The Post reports that New Century supporters acknowledge that their schools need to prepare more students to graduate with Regents diplomas but they say they are helping more kids to graduate than traditional public schools.

And that is true - the Policy Studies Associates' report found that 17% of students left the traditional public schools without graduating in 2006 while only 3% left New Century schools without a diploma.

But what good is graduating students with a worthless diploma that the state is scrapping next year and reputable colleges won't accept for admission?

I don't think it's any good at all, but what do I know?

Unlike the people in the education reform business at New Visions for Public Schools, I actually spend my day in the classroom trying to help students who haven't been able to score a 65 on a Regents exam achieve that benchmark.

Later today, I will be tutoring a student who has sat for the ELA Regents twice and failed to reach 65. I also will be teaching at least four Support Services students who could easily graduate with IEP diplomas, but my administration believes they can and should try for Regents diplomas.

It's not easy trying to help some students pass all 5 Regents exams with scores of 65, but if a school administration and staff really tries, it can be done.

Apparently, the education reform people at New Visions for Public Schools (who have opened 83 schools in New York City since 2002) don't think it can.

Otherwise, they'd be doing it instead of touting the percentage of students they graduate with garbage diplomas.

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