In response to yearly goals set for the English Department, all sophomores will be given an in-class practice regents essay on Friday, June 6.
The primary goal for the English Department written in the Spring 2008 Goals and Objectives template
“I am not at all pleased with PSAT results on writing,” Principal Stanley Teitel said. “I can’t wait for the next PSAT to make my assessment. If we do something in June, then I can do something earlier.”
“There’s a move in the Department of Education towards something they’re calling data given instruction and in part this is our attempt to comply with that,” Assistant Principal English Eric Grossman said.
The essay will be used to quantifiably measure progress in student writing ability. Grossman said, “It will measure across the courses how students do. It’s a way of diagnosing what skills students need to work on holistically.”
“We are looking to measure […] patterns in what students do well on and areas of improvement so we know how to adjust our instruction and patterns among teachers,” Grossman said.
The same essay will be given to all students. It will be modeled on a Regents Task IV essay, the “Critical Lens Essay.” Students will be asked to draw connections between any two works of literature that they have read. It is highly likely that the essay topic will be taken from an old English Regents exam.
Sophomore Daniel Cho said, “I don’t think it would be a problem, but since teachers use different books at different times, I’m not sure if a uniform topic would be fair.”
The essay will be given in-class to ensure that students take it seriously. “It doesn’t have any value otherwise,” Grossman said.
Beyond student assessment, data collected from essay scores will be used to assess teachers. “I wanted Mr. Grossman to make an assessment of how things are going on with the teachers in the classroom,” Teitel said.
“By looking at these essays, we can say ‘What’s one teacher doing that’s successful?’ How can we spread these practices throughout the department?” Grossman said.
The essays will be graded by a small committee of English teachers after the school year comes to an end. Each English teacher will have the additional option of grading their own students’ essays and factoring it into the semester grade. How can they factor it into the semester grade if the grading happens “after the school year comes to an end”? Also, how much weight will the essay have in the final grade?
Grossman said, “Really it’s a diagnostic for us. Nothing is going to happen to any student as a result of his or her performance on it.”
Sophomore Angela Chu said “I find it kind of pointless and very subjective. How do you evaluate someone’s skills in English?”
English teacher Emily Moore has contrasting feelings about the essay. “I don’t like the emphasis on using classroom time for test preparation. I would rather use those days to discuss a novel or to strengthen students’ theses,” Moore said. “On the other hand, I do think that timed reading and writing is becoming increasingly important because of tests like the Regents and SATs. In that sense, it’s a valid thing to do well.”
“I don’t know whether it will prove valuable or not. I’m willing to see,” Grossman said.