State Hopes to Cancel School Exams

Waiting for feds to approve plan

The state Board of Regents this week exempted most public high school students from year-end aptitude tests, known as Regents exams, citing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Whether the exemption will apply to every student who normally takes an end-of-year test will depend on the federal government, which must approve New York’s request for a waiver. 

The state regents, who are elected by the Legislature to set educational policy, announced on Monday (March 15) that, with federal approval of a waiver request, the state plans to cancel all elementary and middle school assessments as well as the exams for high school students that usually take place in June and August. 

If the feds decline the waiver, the state said it would only require June exams in English, Algebra 1, earth science and living environment for high school students and shortened English and math tests for grades 3 to 8. In addition, only the written component of fourth- and eighth-grade science tests would be required.

High school students in New York state must normally pass Regents tests in English, math, science, social studies and a foreign language in order to graduate.

The unanimous vote by the 17-member Regents Board came after educators statewide criticized the federal Education Department’s decision last month not to waive year-end exams for the second straight year. Instead, schools were given the option to delay the tests until the summer or fall and/or give them remotely or in shortened forms. 

“The state is making the most of a bad situation by scaling back this year’s testing requirements and limiting stress on students who already have gone through so much,” said Andy Pallotta, the president of the state teachers’ union. 

The Beacon school board on March 8 voted to write Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, whose district includes the Highlands, and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, urging them to support legislation that would waive testing mandates for the 2020-21 school year. The board argued that most parents will opt their children out of the tests this year, which would make a mandate “an irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars at a time when state and school budgets are already stretched thin.”

Targeted local assessments “would be a better tool to identify individual needs and map a path to improvement,” the board said.

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