by Dan Schrack
Rochester, N.Y. — New York is one of just about a dozen states that still has exit exams.
While Regents testing was once considered the gold standard, some now see it as a barrier to graduation.
The Rochester City School District announced Wednesday its graduation rate rose more than 3 percentage points in 2021.
“This is an exciting point overall and I’m looking forward to us doing even better work,” said Board of Education President Cynthia Elliott.
But, the return of Regents exams in New York state could interfere with the graduation rate.
“I’m one person who thinks we should remove the tests, ” Elliott said. “Because I don’t think that the tests and what we’re teaching throughout the year merges. And that’s where there’s a disconnect.”
The exams were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. They are expected to resume in June, but there’s concern many students won’t be prepared for the tests.
“There’s going to be negative consequences,” said Eamonn Scanlon, education policy director for The Children’s Agenda. “Thousands of students across New York state will not be able to graduate if they reinstitute the Regents.”
He says passing Regents courses should be enough.
“The expectation is, if the students complete their course work and [pass] everything that they take at high school, then they should be allowed to graduate and we shouldn’t have this barrier of an exit exam,” he said.
Instead, he recommends mid-year assessments, which he says would evaluate a student’s standing and provide the opportunity to correct issues to get them back on track.
“It’s important that the Regents take a pause and evaluate with parents and students and the community as a whole in New York state, what are the things we want students to have coming out of high school?”
Elliott credits much of the city’s graduation success to the pressure the board has placed on the district. She is hopeful the trend will continue, even if Regents exams do, in fact, return.
“My vision is for every student in the Rochester City School District to be career- and college-ready,” she said.
13WHAM reached out to the New York State Department of Education several times over the past two weeks to no avail.
That said, education experts say there is still a chance the June exams could be canceled.
Crisis in the Classroom is an occasional series in which 13WHAM looks at challenges being faced in education.
The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.