Do We Really Need Regents Exams?
by Adamaris Sanchez
The Short Answer: Yes, No, Maybe So
The cancellation of the U.S History and Government Regents this past week has raised concern among our school population, and brings up the question: Do we really need Regents to determine our college readiness?
These past years haven’t been easy. The emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020 put a halt to our lives as we started a new chapter for humanity as a whole, and we were still feeling the side effects of it. It wasn’t until a year later when we started opening up our doors again when New York City introduced hybrid learning to students—a long awaited dose of normalcy. At the beginning of the 2021 school year, we returned to the classroom full time.
Together we managed through one of the toughest pandemics humanity has ever encountered, but not everything was all right. A tragic tale the United States knows way too well repeats itself, massacres due to gun violence. Since the start of 2022, the U.S has seen more than 17,000 deaths due to gun violence and mass shooting count for more than 200 of them. America’s gun regulations have been subject to criticism due to excessive lobbying with members of Congress and lack of congressional legislation restricting the ease of purchasing a weapon within the 50 states.
On Saturday, May 14th, 2022, a racially motivated shooting at a Tops supermarket occurred to a community mainly of Black civilians, as a result of a white supremacist with a gun. The shooter came into the supermarket and took the lives of ten innocent individuals who were doing their weekend shopping. New York, along with the rest of the world, felt the grief left by the tragedy.
On Tuesday, May 24th, 2022, the state sent out an email regarding the cancellation of the U.S History and Government Regents, which was supposed to take place on June 1st. The letter from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Commissioner Betty A. Rosa stated:
“To appropriately support our students and their well-being, the Department is canceling the administration of the Regents Examination in United States History and Government (Framework) for June 2022.”
The news broke out after U.S History teachers told their students that June 1st would probably be a regular school day, instead of a Regents day. The students, the majority of whom are Juniors, received the news well. Many of the juniors have had their Regents exams either waived or canceled because of COVID and other outside factors. In fact, some of the juniors at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) have not taken an actual Regents since 8th grade.
Junior Dance major Una Pulver felt relief after hearing the news, stating that the Regents exam shouldn’t determine your college readiness, but rather grades and extra curriculars. Others didn’t have to worry about the exam to begin with, which was the case for junior Fine Arts majors Isa Gapud and Lauren Madrid, who took the U.S History Regents in the 8th grade. Isa stated that If an 8th grader can do it an 11th grader can as well.
The students felt a common sentiment regarding the administration of the Regents exams stating that the exam shouldn’t be a way of measuring college readiness, referring to the NYS graduation policy outlining the required number of Regents exams needed for approval. In fact the students felt relieved that colleges will be able to see them as an individual rather than a test score,
“We won’t be limited [by colleges] because we didn’t take the Regents because they are reflecting our actual grade in the class,” shared Una Pulver.
Teachers were left with more questions than answers. The letter outlining the reasons as to why the NYSED canceled the administration expressed sympathy with the victims of the Buffalo shooting, and found material in the exam insensitive to the community of Buffalo.
FSSA Advanced Placement (AP) and Regular U.S History teacher Mr. Michael Rokofsky expressed his concern as to what the question contained,
“I would like to see the question or the source because it makes me very curious about what it was. I wanna see if there is something that could’ve been so terrible that maybe it shouldn’t have been on the Regents in the first place,” Mr. Rokofsky said.
The importance of the Regents in New York State remains a controversial topic. After the waived or canceled exams over the past three years, many see the exams as disposable or an outdated method of evaluating students. The Board of Regents has stated that the 2022 U.S History exam will not be released to educators, making Mr. Rokofsky’s concerns left unanswered.
Mr. Rokofsky, although confused as to how to feel about the exam being canceled, felt that his students were prepared for college. He stated how throughout the year both his AP classes and regular classes have been exercising their critical thinking skills in activities within the classroom, such as essay writing and document analysis.
“I think our students are college ready but that is based on my eyes and ears and not data…I think if anything, if those students are able to demonstrate the same skills and the same output it might show a diminished necessity for the Regents exam,” said Mr. Rokofsky.
FSSA U.S History and Government/Economics teacher Mr. Lange had a different perception of the situation, as he expresses his concern regarding whether or not students have enough stamina for future challenges in their college experience. Mr. Lange explained how for the past three years, juniors have not endured a three hour Regents examination, and how class performance has gone down as a result of students not having an end goal to prepare for. He affirmed that the process of preparing for an exam isn’t solely based on the score the student receives, but rather the skills and work ethics they build preparing for the test.
“The fact remains that they are going to have to move on in their lives, and they are not going to have this experience of high stakes pressure exams where they are going to be on the spot to think critically and write critically. Those are skills you need in college and I’m concerned that my students aren’t going to have [that],” he said.
The 2022 U.S History Regents was going to be presented in a new format, emphasizing critical thinking skills, rather than memorizing terms and definitions. U.S. History teachers had a lack of resources as a result of the examination being waived in the past, so when hearing that the examination was canceled, they realized that for a third year they were going to be left with almost nothing to prepare students with next year.
“The pandemic caused a learning loss within our school community, as a result of remote learning and other obstacles,” said Mr. Scheiner, the AP Language and Composition teacher, and expresses how it will be difficult for our community to recover from this loss, but he believes our students are resilient.
“I know our students are smart and resilient and I know once they get into the swing of college, they will quickly figure out and remember what has always made them successful students,” he added.
No one really knows what will come in the next school year. We don’t know the long term impact the lack of standardized tests will have on future college students. All that we can do is try our best to build skills we will be able to take with us for the rest of our lives.