‘I don’t think the Regents exams measure what a student should know and be able to do’

Board discusses possible revision of graduation requirements
Schenectady High School graduates receive their diplomas in 2016.
Schenectady High School graduates receive their diplomas in 2016.

The Board of Regents on Monday appeared primed to dive into a potential revision of high school graduation requirements, with some members suggesting must-pass exit exams weren’t a good measure of post-high school preparedness.

“I don’t think the Regents exams measure what a student should know and be able to do,” said Regent Judith Johnson, who along with a handful of other board members called for the creation of a commission to study what exactly New Yorkers want a high school diploma to signify. 

While the Regents in recent years have expanded the ways that students can earn a diploma, the series of five Regents exams — in math, English, science, social studies and a fifth subject — remains the core of the state’s graduation requirements.

But some Regents have started to question whether those exit exams match up with what students need to know as they prepare to leave high school for college or to start in the workforce. Regent Lester Young highlighted the big gap between what employers are looking for in entry-level “middle skills” jobs and what high school graduates have learned.

“There appears to be a disconnect between our exit requirements and the skills young people need to penetrate the middle class,” Young said. 

None of the members specifically called for rolling back Regents exams, but they did question whether they were an unfair hindrance to special education students and poorer districts with lagging graduation rates.  

“Not the Regents [exams] themselves but the high stakes might very well be holding back as opposed to helping students move to college or career,” Regent Roger Tilles said, alluding to the “high stakes” nature of tests students must pass to graduate.

Young, Johnson and Chancellor Betty Rosa all said they supported establishing a commission tasked with answering an essential question as Regents consider future changes to graduation requirements: What should a diploma tell us a students knows and is able to do?

The board Monday did not take any action on graduation requirements or to establish a commission to study the issue. Here’s a roundup of other actions and discussions from Monday’s Regents meeting:

Student voices

The Regents briefly discussed a desire to increase opportunities for students to provide input in the policy-making process, with Rosa suggesting student representatives might eventually hold seats on the board.

“Eventually, ideally we would like our students to sit at the table with us,” Rosa said.

Many districts across the region, like Niskayuna, provide non-voting school board seats to student representatives. Some board members said that model could serve as a starting point as the Regents look to find student representatives across the state.

Data security

During a presentation from the Education Department’s chief privacy officer, Temitope Akinyemi, members raised concerns about student data being collected by third-party vendors.

“I can’t imagine it won’t be breached,” said Regent Kathleen Cashin, pointing to high-profile data breaches like at Equifax.

Some board members questioned whether districts should be required to conduct regular audits of data security, similar to financial audits that districts must conduct each year, while others raised questions about how those audits would be funded. 

Akinyemi also announced the creation of a new data privacy advisory council that would help state officials develop regulations and guidance for how schools can better protect student data and train teachers and staff about using free online education programs that could put student data at risk. 

The Regents didn’t take any action on new data security policies.

Categories: News, Schenectady County


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