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History

Teaching over testing

The history of the Consortium began in the early 1990’s when New York State Commissioner Dr. Thomas Sobol announced the Compact for Learning – an initiative in which schools regarded as particularly effective were asked to offer assistance to schools in need of support. When close observation revealed that several of the mentoring schools utilized a system of performance assessment in place of the State’s standardized exams, Dr. Sobol was asked to support this innovation. Responding to a request from Steve Phillips, superintendent of New York City’s Alternative School division, and Deborah Meier, a New City principal and MacArthur Genius Award recipient, the Commissioner agreed, granting a waiver that allowed these schools to further implement their system of practitioner-developed, student-focused, and externally reviewed assessment.

By 1998, a group of schools had formed the New York Performance Standards Consortium. Through the Consortium’s Center for Inquiry, which coordinates the Consortium’s professional and curriculum development, its validity and reliability studies, and its teacher and principal collaborations, the Consortium has continued to develop and refine its performance assessment system. And it has done so, despite seismic shifts in state and national policies that from the late 90’s on have pushed  standardized testing to the center of school, student, and teacher accountability. At present, nearly 30,000 students attend the Consortium’s 38 schools located in New York City, Rochester, and Ithaca, New York.

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Relying on all aspects of organizing—a court case; public rallies and information campaigns; state senate and assembly legislation; parent, student, and teacher forums; blue ribbon panels; press coverage and research studies—the Consortium has prevailed. It remains unique not only because it is the only network of schools in the nation that has put into practice an authentic assessment option other than standardized testing, but also because it supports a pedagogy in which curriculum and instruction drive the assessment, not the reverse. It is unique because it values inquiry teaching and learning, promotes student voice, fosters depth over coverage, and promotes school cultures built on professional communities.

On five separate occasions, the NY State Board of Regents and NY State Education Department have extended the waiver allowing Consortium school graduates to earn a Regents diploma. (Like all other NYS high schools, Consortium graduates are required to earn 44 distributed credits and receive a minimum score of 65 on the Regents ELA exam.)

As NY Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Regent Judith Johnson stated in a message to the 800 participants attending the Consortium’s annual conference in 2018: "We know that each student fortunate enough to find his or her way through the doors of a Consortium school will be welcomed and supported in the quest to meet personal dreams. Consortium schools remain a beacon of promise that must never be allowed to dim. You have our complete admiration for your commitment to our children. Thank You."

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NY Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Regent Judith Johnson stated in a message to the 800 participants attending the Consortium’s annual conference in 2018:

"We know that each student fortunate enough to find his or her way through the doors of a Consortium school will be welcomed and supported in the quest to meet personal dreams.

Consortium schools remain a beacon of promise that must never be allowed to dim. You have our complete admiration for your commitment to our children. Thank You."