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January Regents exams canceled over COVID, students to receive exemption from grad requirements

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There will be no state Regents exams in January for students looking to meet graduation requirements, interim state Education Commissioner Betty Rosa announced Thursday.

Students who had planned to take the exams can qualify for exemptions to the graduation requirements – for most students, they must pass five Regents exams to earn a diploma. State officials have yet to make a decision about either the Regents exams or other state assessments scheduled for the spring.

“We determined the January Regents exams could not be safely, equitably and fairly administered across the state given where the pandemic currently stands,” Rosa said in a statement.

Last spring’s Regents exams were canceled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and students were granted exemptions from the exam requirements so long as they completed course work associated with the exam subject.

The Board of Regents will have to approve emergency rules granting the exemptions, according to the announcement Thursday. Students will qualify for the exemption if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • The student is enrolled in a course that would normally culminate in a January Regents exam, and the student earns credit for the course by the end of the semester;
  • The students completed a make-up program during the first semester of the year for the purpose of earning course credit, or;
  • The students is preparing to take a required Regents exams in January.

State officials on Thursday sent a memo to educators across the state outlining the changes.

The announcement still leaves unanswered questions about how, or whether, state testing will resume. State officials have more control over the Regents exams, which are part of state-determined graduation requirements. But the state’s spring English and math tests for students in grades 3-8 are required under federal law. While federal officials allowed states to bypass those exams last spring, it’s not clear whether the same flexibility will exist this year.

Educators and advocates have raised concerns about the ability to fairly administer tests to students, some of whom are learning remotely while others are receiving in-person instruction. State officials on Thursday also cited the uptick in COVID-19 cases and in the past have discussed the logistical hurdles of administering widespread testing in this environment. At the Board of Regents’ October meeting, state officials said they could not facilitate remote testing on state exams.

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