Last year I wrote about how the top charter chain in New York City, Success Academy, only managed to have three students get between 52% and 72% of the questions correct on the Algebra II Regents.
In New York State, the standardized end of the year exams for high school are called ‘The Regents.’ In math there are three Regents: Algebra I is for 9th graders (or advanced 8th graders), Geometry is for 10th graders (or advanced 9th graders), and Algebra II is for 11th graders (or advanced 10th graders). To get a diploma you only have to pass Algebra I, but to be ‘college ready’ you generally take the other two courses and, depending on what year you complete Algebra II, you take precalculus and possibly AP Calculus.
Success Academy is known for their Grades 3-8 ELA and Math test scores, but up until recently they weren’t taking the Regents at all, for unknown reasons.
In today’s New York Post there was an article about how 100% of the eighth graders from Success Academy Bronx 2 scored a level 5 on the recent Algebra I regents. As this has been celebrated by various charter cheerleaders on Twitter, I wanted to give my analysis of this event.
First of all, there is a generous curve on the Algebra I Regents where 31% correct curves up to a 65. For the higher scores, it is less generous, but still to get an 85 which is a level 5, you only have to get 79% of the possible points. It is still pretty good to have 100% of your students get 79% or better on this test. Throughout the city, most schools don’t achieve that. But is it really 100% of the Success Academy Bronx 2 eighth graders. The article mentions that they have 53 students who completed 8th grade. But according to state data, this class was 72 students just two years ago. So they lost almost 30% of their students in two years. Suddenly 100% doesn’t sound like 100% anymore.
Another consideration is that charter schools, for some bizarre reason, are permitted to grade their own Regents while non-charter schools have to have their Regents sent out to be graded at a centralized facility. Students generally do a little better when graded by their own teachers, not because of intentional cheating but because the teachers are more likely to understand what the student was trying to explain in questions where they have to write what their thought process was.
One issue that many people have noted about Success Academy students is that they seem to ‘peak’ very early. They do so well up to 8th grade and then so few of them are admitted to the specialized high schools. They didn’t even seem to take Regents until recently and though they seem to do well on the Algebra I Regents in 8th grade, they do not seem to do anything on the Geometry or Algebra II Regents.
Success Academy had 130 9th graders in the 2017-2018 school year. Presumably most, if not all, would be taking the Geometry Regents, yet according to the records they had zero students even attempting that test. For Algebra II I wrote about how in 2016-2017 they only had 13 students out of 16 pass and only 3 of them with grades above 72%. Well, after seeing this recent story about their 8th graders and Algebra I, I looked that their Algebra II scores for last year (this year’s scores are not out yet on the data site). Despite having 161 10th graders last year, 31 11th graders, and 17 12th graders, Success Academy had only 22 students even take the Algebra II Regents. And their scores were the same as they were the previous year with 68% of the students getting between 30% and 52% of the possible points and 14% of the students getting between 52% and 72% of the possible points.
So The New York Post and various Twitter charter champions can celebrate the 8th grade Algebra I scores, but until they translate into Geometry and Algebra II success, I’m going to keep pointing this out.