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Student advocates say it’s time for New York to ditch regents exams: Do standardized tests work?

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

Student advocates in New York have petitioned state education officials for alternate pathways to graduation. The Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma has sent a petition signed by 1,200 New Yorkers to state leaders urging them to separate Regents exams from graduation requirements.

This action is based on a report from the Comprehensive Care Network for the New York State Department of Education and the state Board of Regents. It examines multiple pathways to graduation for students and finds exit exams do not always lead to the best student outcomes.

Juliet Eisenstein, senior staff attorney, Post Readiness Project, Advocates for Children of New York, described some of the options the state could consider for students to have, in lieu of Regents exams.

“I think the most important thing is that students have access to real world opportunities, opportunities to build up real world skills, whether that be through access to work-based learning experiences, internships that they can get credit for, career and technical education classes, performance-based assessments instead of testing,” Eisenstein said.

Should the state commit to any of these alternatives, she said students need access to the resources for these paths to graduation. Numerous states have decoupled exams, reduced the weight these exams carry, or found alternatives. Currently, only eight states, including New York, use exit exams as a requirement for graduation.

Eisenstein noted the pandemic has provided insight into how decoupling Regents exams from graduation requirements can benefit students.

“There’s been a lot of changes to graduation requirements during the pandemic, which, in some ways have really complicated the graduation system but also have shown that there are other ways to measure student learning and student mastery of content without high-stakes testing,” she said.

She said new system for graduation can be created after seeing how the pandemic has altered student learning. With revising what determines a student’s readiness for graduation, Eisenstein said students will be able to demonstrate what they have learned in different ways.