January Regents Tests Canceled

In November of 2020, The New York State Board of Regents announced the termination of the January 2021 Regents Examination. This is the third Regents cancelled due to restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the others being the June and August examinations

Regents Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown stated in a press release: “We are committed to ensuring each of New York’s students has access to the rigorous coursework necessary to prepare them for success this year and beyond. The cancellation of the January Regents Examinations will not impact that priority.”

After the expected cancellation in June, schools waived the Regents requirement for
seniors seeking diplomas at the end of the 2019/2020 school year, as well as the August
examination. What was a temporary change in regulation is becoming a trend, as once again the Board of Regents has relinquished the January Regents as a requirement for a diploma, after releasing this statement: “Under the proposed emergency regulations, students who are planning to take one or more Regents Examinations during the January 2021 examination period at the conclusion of a course of study or make up program shall be exempt from the requirements pertaining to passing such Regents Examination to be issued a diploma.”

While the Regents’ purpose is to examine the progress of the New York Public School
curriculum and its impact on students’ education, the work required to achieve a passing grade is known to tax students’ mental health. Because of its grueling reputation, teachers and students alike agree that this January’s repeal is in everyone’s best interests.

While this emphasizes the necessity of following state curriculum standards, it doesn’t answer the question on most schools’ minds: What does this mean for the future of Regents Testing?

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts’ (FSSA) Test administrator and librarian, Ms. Daniel, expressed gratitude for the time off this January, and hopes the recent lack of testing sets a future precedent.

“Maybe this is the beginning of the end for Regents & SAT exams as they are not a true barometer of future college success,” says Ms. Daniel.

Siblings Nate and Isabella Saban are two students with different perspectives of the high
school lifestyle, regarding education. Nate is approaching his second semester as a freshmen, and Isabella is nearing her final semester of high school as a senior at FSSA.

Hearing the recent news, both brother and sister gave their take on why students should consider January’s nullification to be a good thing.

“Depending on how the school decides to use the time, it could be an opportunity for
students to devote more time and focus on the school work in front of them,” Isabella

Nate offered a thought regarding students’ overall wellbeing: “I think it’s important for students to get breaks every once in a while, especially after this year of uncertainty,” he said.

The Board also stated that the January exam will be removed from any calculation
ascertaining an Honors or Mastery diploma. Could this new leniency on test results and diploma requirements foreshadow a future similar to the one Ms. Daniel described?

With this much surrender on three separate exams, could we see a change in what exit exams look like for New York, and possibly for other statewide test programs around the country?

AP English and Journalism teacher Mr. Scheiner offered his thoughts on what this could mean for the future of testing.

“I think this is a perfect time to reassess the entire state mandated testing system in schools,” Mr. Scheiner explains. “While I think there needs to be some measure of competency and the need to test the abilities of students, tests like the Regents put enormous stresses on students, teachers and administrators. As one of the last states to require Regents, I think it’s time to rethink how to best measure student success.”

It’s agreed that the Regents overwork everyone involved, and do not always serve as an accurate testament to a students’ general academic knowledge. If the board adds the spring and summer Regents to the list of once required and now abandoned examinations, this could mean a large change in how the state calculates and surveys a student’s progress in the future.

Twenty-three states require an exit examination in order for public school students to earn their diploma, and New York’s revocation could be yet another small step on the path not only to a permanent termination of the Regents exams, but even an end to standardized testing nationwide.

— by Hudson Flynn ’21