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PRESS RELEASE: Declining Graduation Rates Clearly Linked to High-Stakes Tests

Posted: February 20, 2006

New York Performance Standards Consortium Presents Data

Contact: Jane Hirschmann, Time Out From Testing, 917-679-8343

The dismal graduation data recently released by the New York State Education Department shows that only 64% of students entering 9th grade in 2001 graduated four years later, putting New York State near the bottom in state rankings of graduation rates. New York State’s educational policies are clearly failing. The cause of this failure has now been directly linked to New York State’s five high-stakes graduation tests – the most draconian exit exams in the nation.

Dr. Walt Haney of the Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Policy at Boston College, explains: "There is no doubt that New York’s abysmal graduation rate is due to its policy of high-stakes graduation exams. Independent studies have been tracking a drop since 2000, the first year the policy went into full effect."

The latest study, by Dr. John Robert Warren of the University of Minnesota, shows that the most precipitous 3-year decline in New York’s graduation rate occurred between 1999, when there were no high-stakes Regents tests, and 2002, when 4 Regents tests were required for graduation. During those 3 years, the graduation rate dropped 6.2 percentage points, from 71.1% to 64.9%.

"When you make tests high-stakes," concurs Dan Drmacich, Rochester’s co-chair of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, "you ultimately hurt, not help, student. Schools become test prep factories. Relentless test prep drills, in turn, disengage and alienate students. After a steady diet of testing and test prep in elementary and middle school, and the prospect of five high-stakes tests in high school, a lot of kids decide it’s not for them. They drop out even before they take the high school tests."

"It’s time we started paying attention to the collateral damage caused by such public policies," noted Dr. Michelle Fine, distinguished professor at City University and author of Framing Dropouts. "If a medical procedure produced such alarming statistics, it would be regarded as completely unacceptable. Until we have proof that NY State’s testing regime is NOT responsible for chasing kids from school, those in charge should immediately change course."

While Commissioner Mills and the SED were quick to blame middle schools for inadequate preparation of students for high school work, thus a low graduation rate, they painted a very different picture just last year. In the SED Press Release of March 9, 2005, they not only claimed an increase in the number of graduates despite higher standards, they also stated:

Fewer students have serious academic problems by the end of 8th grade, and fewer are held back in 9th grade. SED Press Release, March 9. 2005

The SED has also conceded past errors in data reporting: its website now says, "the 67% four-year graduation rate we announced last year was probably a bit too high" (SED PowerPoint on Graduation and Regents Exam Results, p. 13).

"What we have here are reports of mass deception: press releases and reports that claimed success for policies that were in reality failing our students. Commissioner Mills remains unaccountable," said Jane Hirschmann of Time Out From Testing. "The high-stakes testing policies introduced by this Commissioner are to blame."

Notably, the New York City Department of Education explained declines in graduation rates years ago. The City’s Department of Education report dated April 24, 2002, stated, "Dropout rates increase as students are required to pass Regents examinations to graduate."

Those advocating change point to studies that document much better results when schools rely on multiple indicators to determine student achievement.

Red Alert!
Let's Opt Out of the April 2014 NYS Tests

Parents can refuse to allow their child to take the State high stakes tests. Hand in this letter to your principal [other formats: .pdf .odt .doc]. En Español: [otros formatos: .pdf .odt .doc] Send your child to school and ask that an alternative activity be planned for him/her during the 6 days of testing.

Information for Parents who want to Opt Out:

Feel free to duplicate these flyers and give them to other parents!

We also have a magazine explaining Common Core, High Stakes Testing, and InBloom to parents. Varios artículos de esta revista fueron traducidos a Español.

Opt Out New York
New material to support the April Boycott.
Please share this Powerpoint!
Developed by a Long Island parent.


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Did You Know?
Did you know that charter schools in New York City enroll fewer students who qualify for free lunch and fewer homeless students?

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