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Future students may see Regents exams decoupled from their diploma

By Mallie Jane Kim

In the heat of finals season anxiety on June 10, New York State Education Department shared a vision for future updates as to how students earn a high school diploma, including decoupling Regents exams from graduation requirements. 

But these changes are not happening just yet.

“A lot of people got very excited on Monday when the Regents met to discuss what their vision is going to be for the new graduation measures,” said Karen Roughley, Three Village Central School District board member, at a meeting June 12. “But right now it is still a vision.”

In addition to removing Regents as a graduation requirement, the education department’s vision sets out a “Portrait of a Graduate,” which would require New York students show proficiency in critical thinking, problem solving, literacy across content areas, cultural and social-emotional competency, effective communication and global citizenship. Under the vision, credits would be based on demonstrating proficiency rather than time spent in class and students could demonstrate proficiency through various pathways, not limited to assessments like Regents exams.

Roughley, who sat as a parent member on the Blue Ribbon Commission which initially gave the recommendations that inspired this new vision, emphasized that the state Department of Education still needs to work out details before implementing any changes.

“It looks beautiful on their presentation,” she said. “It’s something I think that we need to aspire to, but there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

The Board of Regents plans to hold forums through October to gather feedback from stakeholders and will continue to fine-tune the vision into a full plan, which should be ready by November.

Regents exam scores in final grade

Those Regents exams were front of mind for some worried parents and students, who in Three Village will see their exam scores count as 10% of their final grade for the first time since a COVID-era “Do No Harm” policy allowed the scores to be left out if they would negatively impact a final mark.

Despite emails requesting a return of “Do No Harm,” the Three Village board opted to stay the course they charted in a 4-2 vote last November to end the policy, but left open the possibility of reexamining the issue in the fall.

 “A vote is a vote, and it has to matter unless the circumstances have changed,” said board president Susan Rosenzweig. “They really haven’t right now.”

 New York does not provide a recommendation on whether or how much to count Regents exams in final course grades, but rather leaves it up to each individual district. 

Three Village administrators say Regents scores shouldn’t be a major worry for students. District data presented at the meeting showed even if a student exam score is 20 percentage points less than their average grade per quarter, the overall grade would only drop by two points. For example, a student who has a 95 in the four quarters of classwork but scores 75% on the Regents, the overall grade would drop to 93.

“It wouldn’t have a significant impact,” said Brian Biscari, assistant superintendent for educational services, who previously shared the rationale for including the scores was partly out of concern students take the exams less seriously when they don’t count toward their GPA.

Though to some, even two points may be extremely valuable. 

“Oftentimes a single point can be the difference between being accepted or rejected from your dream school,” wrote an unnamed student in an email to the Three Village board. “As someone who strives for excellence in the classroom, I work diligently to ensure that my GPA is the highest it can possibly be.”

The student’s email, read aloud during the public comment section of the board meeting, added that lower scores could also disadvantage Three Village students looking to earn scholarships. 

Biscari pointed to the fact that teachers are the ultimate authority on each student’s grade and can adjust a final grade if a student underperforms on a test, relative to their demonstrated proficiency. 

“A two-point discrepancy is well within our teachers’ purview to change,” he said.