According to the website of the New York State Education Department, students are currently “required to pass five Regents exams in high school in order to graduate – one each in English, science, math, as well as the U.S History and the Global Studies and Geography exams.” New regulations, however, have added a “4+1” option that “permits a student to take four Regents exams and a comparably rigorous technical, arts, or other assessment for the fifth examination required for graduation.”
Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said that these new regulations aim to “improve the state’s 74.9 percent graduation rate, increase the percentage of students who graduate prepared for college and careers (currently 37.2 percent), and help prepare more students for success in the 21st century economy.”
On the other hand, there is talk of additional new requirements such as “by 2022, students will not only have to pass five Regents Exams to graduate, they’ll have to score at least 75 percent on the English exam and 80 percent on the math exam.”
So, this begs the real question: will either of these rules, and the Regents in general, help students graduate and succeed? Do these tests prepare all students for the paths they plan to pursue after school?
Teachers are speaking out on the contrary. Eileen Riley-Hill, a New York English teacher, writes, “There’s nothing wrong with high standards or standardized tests — but our schools need to serve all kids, and becoming “college-ready” shouldn’t be the only way to graduate high school.”
She points out the fact that the Regents Exams were originally designed for students who planned to attend college, while Regents Competency Tests were offered for those interested in “fields outside traditional academics: auto mechanics, culinary arts, cosmetology, business, health care and on.” Hill concludes, “There are many ways to succeed in life; we must offer many ways to succeed in school.”
I agree that these fields are important and can offer students a road less traveled to success. In fact, two past blog posts of mine have explored non-traditional careers, including in the culinary arts (click here to read more).
In my opinion, education is meant to provide students with the tools they need to succeed in their everyday lives as citizens and professionals, regardless of whether that means pursuing their formal education further. While college can offer significant benefits to students, this does not mean that the Regents Exams should prevent others from graduating high school because they aren’t prepared for college, an environment they don’t even intend to join. State tests also shouldn’t limit teachers in the classroom so that they aren’t able to inspire students to become involved in their own education, whether that is on a college campus or on their own.
The Regents Exams seem to be going against their own stated goals and taking away from the ultimate goal of education. For this reason, they need to be honestly evaluated based on the real impacts they are having on students’ lives and their attitudes towards education.
What are your opinions on the Regents Exams or state testing in general?
New York State Education Department: Board Of Regents Approves New Graduation Options
New York Post: New York’s diplomas leave too many kids out