ALBANY -- Regents exams scheduled for June will be canceled, state Education Chancellor Betty Rosa announced Monday, but answers about what that means for students and schools aren’t expected until state officials release guidance Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced Monday that mandatory school closures would be extended until at least April 29.
The state requires high school students to pass five Regents exams, with some exceptions, in order to earn a high school diploma.
Rosa made the announcement during the board’s Monday meeting, held by conference call, noting that the decision to cancel the Regents exams presented a variety of complicated issues related to student graduation requirements. She promised the state Education Department would release detailed guidance Tuesday, outlining what the changes would mean for students and schools and how it would affect graduation.
“We ask everyone for their indulgence as it relates to this matter,” Rosa said. “We are trying to make sure we finalize everything to go into a public space by tomorrow afternoon.”
Earlier in the meeting, Regent Susan Mittler said she had received a litany of questions and concerns related to the Regents exams and graduation requirements, calling the volume of inquiries “almost frenetic,” and urged state officials to provide clarity as soon as possible.
“We have to work on the expectations of seniors going on to college and so on that they will in fact graduate,” Mittler said on the call.
Regents exams were scheduled to run from June 17 through June 25, with nearly a dozen separate exams filling both morning and afternoon slots over that week of testing. Those tests are now off. Another round of tests of the core Regents exams are scheduled for August, but it wasn’t clear if Rosa’s announcement also applied to those dates.
Many students looking to graduate this summer have already passed the required exams, but other students were preparing to take or retake exams they still needed for graduation, under the longstanding requirements. Schenectady High School, for instance, makes major efforts to support seniors to finish Regents exams through focused review classes and other individualized support.
State officials had already canceled its statewide grades 3-8 English language arts and math assessments, as well as other state tests, but students and educators were still awaiting word on the Regents exams.
During its first virtual meeting since the onset of social distancing rules, the Board of Regents on Monday also approved a raft of emergency regulations, extending deadlines, forgiving requirements and offering more flexibility to schools across a litany of programs the department oversees.
The regulatory relief the board approved Monday will effectively freeze in place the state’s school accountability system, which identifies schools and districts deemed in need of extra state support and focus. Data collected during the 2019-2020 school year will not be used in the state’s accountability system under the regulations approved Monday.
Some Regents members also expressed new concerns, including how to support parents now forced to lead their child’s day-to-day education, while many of those parents may be struggling with economic hardship.
“We all know and appreciate that parents are the first educators of their children, but I believe this has taken it to a much different level,” Regent Judith Chin said during the meeting. “We need ways that we can support parents to respond to some of the challenges they are facing at home in understanding the curriculum and the challenges of using technology.”
One member asked about collecting data on student progress and the implementation of school districts’ remote education plans, and another member asked how educators would monitor what area of curriculum students were not being taught so gaps can be filled in later.
The board members and department staff also pointed out that the school closures shined a bright light on the deep inequities within the state’s education system and how some schools offer computers to all students while others struggle to provide access.
“We have some school districts where there is 100-percent access to digital technology … then we have other school districts in the state where they have access for some and not for others,” Interim state Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe said. “I hope this COVID-19 crisis brings us to a place in the future where this is never the case again.”