Here's the article about the SRA test. IMHO it's another example of the failure of billions of dollars fed to the sinkhole the Abbot districts. I wonder if the "performance tasks" mentioned in the article include things like removing a full trash bin at McDonald's and installing a new plastic liner.
State decides not to expel alternative graduation test
The Corzine administration has reversed earlier plans to abolish the state's controversial alternative high school exam, and instead will suggest tightening how the test is administered and scored.
After several months of study, state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy this morning will present to the state Board of Education a resolution retaining an alternative test similar to the Special Review Assessment used by one in eight to graduate.
Although details remain sketchy, Davy said the revamped test would be administered under more controlled rules and scored outside the students' home districts.
The current untimed test is given to more than 10,000 students a year who fail at least one section of the state's required high school exit exam.
The SRA has increasingly been relied upon in many poorly performing districts and has drawn criticism as an easier route to a diploma, prompting state officials and the state board in 2005 to agree to end it. The phase-out was to begin this year.
Others contend that some alternative route must be maintained in fairness to students who have passed all their courses and otherwise are eligible to graduate. Davy in recent months has begun to hedge on doing away with it altogether.
In an interview last week, Davy said details of the new exam are yet to be settled, and set a new timeline for the revamped process to be in place by the 2009-10 school year. The current SRA would stay in effect in the meantime.
Davy first needs the backing of the state board, although several of its members had been skeptical of the plan to abolish the SRA in the first place and prodded Davy to retain some kind of alternative.
"This will now continue the conversation we've been having with the state board," Davy said of the upcoming presentation. "This is an alternative way of measuring achievement to the state's standards."
In 2006, about one in eight public high school students needed to take the SRA to graduate, according to the state's most recent data. The numbers rise dramatically in poor, mostly urban districts, where in some high schools a majority of students needed the SRA. But more than half of those needing the SRA also came from suburban or non-urban districts.
The test is composed of a series of "performance tasks" that measure the same skills as the standard High School Proficiency Assessment but are taken over the course of days, if not weeks. Teachers often instruct on the skills at the same time and also score the assessment.
Yesterday, both supporters and critics prepared to testify before the state board on the latest resolution. A research group based in the Education Law Center in Newark recently completed a study pressing the need for the alternative assessment, but also more system-wide reforms in the schools.
"I think this resolution is credible and reasonable," said Stan Karp, a former Paterson teacher who headed the study group. "But we hope if the board adopts it, one of the key things is it takes some time around what the guidelines will be."
Among the critics are a pro-voucher group known as Excellent Education for Everyone, which maintains the SRA leaves too many students with what it considers a worthless diploma.
"The presence of the SRA, and its abuse, undermines the value of the state's high school diploma," read planned testimony from Derrell Bradford, deputy director of E3. "It masks the serious failure of many predominantly urban K-12 systems."
In Newark, where some high schools have relied heavily on the SRA, Superintendent Marion Bolden said she is pleased that the state is backing off. She said the debate has highlighted ways to improve the SRA.
Newark already has taken steps to tighten its own process, she said, mandating tutoring and summer school for those failing the HSPA. Bolden said the SRA rate dropped from a high of 62 percent to about 40 percent last year.
"I think this was a wakeup call for all of us," she said.