NYS rethinking Regents exam requirements

July 23, 2019 06:35 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) -- A committee, put together by the NYS Board of Regents, will soon begin looking into whether the current regulations for achieving a high school diploma in New York state need to be changed.  

Right now, almost all high school students are required to take and pass at least four state Regents exams in order graduate but it appears many members of the Regents board believe that a young person's future should no longer just depend on whether he or she can pass a series of tests.   


"When students do receive their diploma, what does it stand for? What kind of preparation is attributed to that diploma," questioned Betty Rosa, chancellor of the NYS Board of Regents at a recent board meeting.

Rosa is putting together a committee to explore options to improve the state's graduation rates and better define the significance of a diploma earned in New York state.

The NYS education commissioner also believes that changes are needed.

"It's so convoluted sometimes when you look at our graduation requirements, we've got to make them more focused and move our students to the right place," Mary Ellen Elia says.

And in an evolving world where continued learning is necessary, whether a student is college or career bound, there seems to be a push toward alternative ways of securing a diploma.

"We need to ask ourselves what is it that we can do to improve opportunities to be successful for all of our children and part of that is the focus on state assessments as the only measure of achievement," says Regents board member Judith Johnson.  

Sixty percent of other states in the country do not require an exit exam to graduate. Half of the states that do, require three or less. New York requires students to take and pass at least four but, in most cases, five Regents exams.  

Local parents seem split when it comes to whether kids should have to pass the exams in order to graduate.

"You don't want kids going out there uninformed ya know, you're just not sure what they've learned. They have to prove and show what they've learned," says Toby Lyle of Rochester.

But Gwendolyn Wynne of Gates thinks other options may help deserving students who would otherwise drop-out, get across the graduation stage.

"The hands-on and the internships…it's good. I believe in that because my child was hands-on in school, cause he needed more special attention," she tells News10NBC.  

The Rochester City School District has had one of the lowest graduation rates in New York state for decades but over the last 10 years, has made steady increases. RCSD School Board President Van White tells News10NBC he doesn't necessarily want the Board of Regents to change the current standards.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I think there's a lot of cynicism about what our students are capable of doing…I'd prefer that they keep them just as they are because I want people to know that our citizens, our students by the thousands are flipping that tassel, meeting the rigorous standards of the State of New York, I don't want there to be any doubt that maybe people are fudging the numbers or it's been made a little bit easier," he says.

RCSD will have to implement whatever changes to graduation requirements are ultimately decided upon. 

"And we will continue on our path of increasing graduation rates no matter what the requirements are that come out of Albany," White says.

The Board of Regents is currently putting a commission together to address this topic. They expect to have a vision put forth by October of this year and the board is hoping to vote on any proposed changes by the fall of 2020.  


Jennifer Lewke

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