Home News New York proposes dropping Regents exam as high school graduation requirement

New York proposes dropping Regents exam as high school graduation requirement

The New York State Education Department proposed Monday ending a requirement that students pass Regents exams to earn a high school diploma, as part of the most sweeping overhaul of public school graduation measures in decades.

Officials advanced four “proposed transformations” to the Board of Regents based on recommendations made by a key commission in the fall. Also on the table are proposals to offer only one type of New York diploma, rework credit requirements, and broaden the skills and knowledge students need to graduate.

“All too often, our students may say, ‘well, what is the purpose of me learning this? So why do I have to do this?’” Angelique Johnson-Dingle, deputy commissioner of instructional support at the Education Department, told the board. “The answer can no longer just be because it’s on the Regents exam. The answer has to be that because you can use this in life.”

The changes require approval by the Board of Regents before they can go into effect.

For a typical diploma, students currently must pass at least four Regents exams and another state-approved assessment, and meet certain credit requirements. New York is one of just nine states that still mandate exit exams, including others that are considering dropping the requirement.

While tests would continue to be administered, the end of the requirement could have ripple effects in classrooms across New York, where students who fail the Regents have been shut out of earning a diploma, and some teachers feel hamstrung into teaching toward a test. But experts say that implementation is key.

“The Regents had devolved or descended into months of test prep and rote learning, so it’s a welcome end to that era,” said David Bloomfield, a professor of education law and policy at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

“But what the new era portends is questionable and troubling. It’s not clear from the presentation what New York high schools will look like in the future,” he continued. “Rigorous coursework needs to be required, and there’s nothing in this presentation that assures that will be the case.”

Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa at the Board of Regents meeting lamented what she suggested was the “narrative” that New York is doing away with assessments, rather than adding new skills and knowledge requirements. The state Education Department has faced criticism for what some parents and advocates view as lowering standards for graduation.

Commissioner of Education and president of the University of the State of New York Betty A. Rosa,

Commissioner of Education Betty A. Rosa, during a state's Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Albany, N.Y.

Hans Pennink/AP

Commissioner of Education Betty A. Rosa, during a state’s Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Albany, N.Y. (Hans Pennink/AP)

“We want to put them (students) at a major advantage by creating critical thinkers, problem solvers, students that have the competencies and skills that they need to be successful,” Rosa said. “That has to be our focus.”

Meanwhile, the Education Department proposed reworking credit requirements to focus on proficiency over the completion of time-based “units of study.” While students could continue to take traditional high school courses, they could alternatively earn credits through approved work opportunities, capstone projects, and other methods.

Also under the plan, New York would move to a system with only one diploma available to all graduates, eliminating the local and “advanced designation” diplomas that Rosa and other officials have said complicates matters and attaches a stigma to what colleges and employers may view as a lesser degree.

Instead, students could pursue a seal or endorsement in areas such as biliteracy and civic readiness to stand out from their peers.

The Education Department is hosting a series of public hearings between July and October on the proposals. Officials are expected to present an implementation plan to the Board of Regents in November.


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