Saturday, July 27, 2019

NY Post Doubles Down on Logical Fallacy

The NY Post editorial board would have you believe yet another binary falsehood--that NY State diplomas will be meaningless if the Regents decide to do away with the Regents exams. This is yet another false dilemma, just like the one an ostensible news story pushed the other day. Then, it was that the chancellor's push for awareness of bias must necessarily preclude instruction in reading and math.

One of the worst things, for me, about this Post story, is it puts me in the position of having to defend the Regents, whose ineptitude is legendary. I mean, who else could decide that the best way to improve instruction for newcomers is via reducing direct English instruction by a factor of 33-100%? That's one of the stupidest, most ignorant decisions I've ever seen in my life (and I say that while living through the administration of Donald Trump).

It must be great to be an editorial writer. You just say any damn thing you please. You don't need to cite evidence. You don't need to make a case. In fact, you don't even need to be familiar with your subject. Exhibit A is paragraph number one:

High school diplomas all across New York state will soon be meaningless if the Board of Regents gets away with scrapping a requirement for students that dates back more than 150 years: passing several Regents exams.

That's simply not true. When I began teaching, there was an alternative to the Regents exam called the RCT, or Regents Competency Test, that led to a diploma. I was an English teacher when I started, and the lowest level classes were those that offered RCT instruction. In my brief tenure as an English teacher, I was invariably assigned those classes. The thinking then (as now) was, "You can't teach and they can't learn. Therefore it's a perfect match."

The RCT required a business letter, a persuasive argument, and another task I do not recall. I'd argue those tasks require more thought and actual writing than the current English Regents exam, which is an unmitigated piece of crap. We have a new social studies Regents exam which is, in fact, a reading exam. Neither of these exams actually measures the areas they purport to.

I can't speculate on other exams, but I have no reason to suspect they're any better. This is underlined by the fact that NYSED routinely manipulates cut scores so that the tests establish whatever they wish them to. One year, everyone passes and Michael Bloomberg is a reformy genius of the first magnitude. The next, everyone fails, NY State teachers all suck, and the only cure is Common Coriness, which is next to Common Godliness.

The NY Post editorial board is aware of none of this. And lest I be accused of singling out the Post, I've seen similar ignorance in NY Times op-eds and editorials. One of the biggest problems we have in education is the fact that people who know little or nothing about it are in charge of it. Honestly, I have no reason to believe the clueless Regents will come up with anything better than the absurd examinations that bear their name.

This notwithstanding, it's preposterous to assume that dumping a bunch of crappy tests will render diplomas meaningless. If diplomas are based on absurd exercises in common coriness like the NY State English Regents exam, they're already meaningless.

The only way to go from here is up.
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