NY High School Regents Exams: Do We Still Need Them?

NY High School Regents Exams began in New York State in 1876, a hundred years after our nation’s declaration of independence. As they have evolved, they continue to this day, testing NY’s high school students in most academic subjects.

Students who passed their exams received Regents Certificates. That too has evolved. High school students who pass the required Regents are awarded a Regents Diploma, which has some bearing on the college admissions process.

The first Regents exams were: Algebra, American History, Basic Latin, Natural Philosophy and Physical Geography. First conducted in June 1878, they served to ensure that subjects were taught sufficiently thoroughly so that students pursuing advanced studies after high school were well prepared.

Now, over a century later, does it make sense that New York City high schools continue to prepare their students for the Regents Exams? Are Regents exams relevant or are they leftovers from an educational system of yesteryear? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Disadvantages Some argue that they should be discontinued because they are no longer relevant. They point out that since the majority of students now take the SAT or ACT tests, the Regents exams are no longer required to ensure students have studied enough to enter college.

Even more widely held is the view that it is not uncommon for students to wheel along during the school year just to take past Regents exams and study the course themselves in the last few weeks before the June exams.

Advantages. Let’s look at the other side of the argument, starting with the last point. No doubt teachers prefer that students follow closely throughout the year. However, an “A” grade on a Regents Examination carries some weight. Somehow it worked between what the teacher did throughout the year and what the student did. The student has studied the required material and has met Regents standards.

Many disagree that the Regents exams are no longer relevant. They continue to set high standards for each course. And since everyone knows the standards, it’s easier for teachers to meet those standards, and easier for students to learn the material covered. In addition, as standards remain stable over many years, textbook and review book publishers have an incentive to produce comprehensive and high-quality books.

A related benefit of continuing the Regents exams is the standards themselves. The standards are independent of the school. Because of this, they cannot be compromised by students, teachers, or parents. For example, when a large group of students get together in a school and boycott an issue outright, they know that the teacher cannot give in to their demands and change the standards.

In general, Regent’s standards and exams are a safety net for teachers and students. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. The Regents provide teachers with a basic curriculum. After that, teachers are free to be as ambitious and creative as they like. If they want to enrich the curriculum, that’s great. Similarly, if enough students are capable or ambitious, they can encourage the teacher to go beyond the curriculum and enrich the course to meet their needs and interests.

Thanks to Dr. Linda Silbert | #High #School #Regents #Exams

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