Cutting Regents exams a frustrating step back

Metro Creative Most state tests, including high school Regents exams, were canceled Monday afternoon after the state Board of Regents voted on a series of emergency regulations to change state diploma requirements as the COVID-19 pandemic encroaches on a second school year.

Here’s a lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 experience: Each closure, postponement or cancellation undermines the quality of education in New York state a little more.

Most state tests, including high school Regents exams, were canceled Monday afternoon after the state Board of Regents voted on a series of emergency regulations to change state diploma requirements as the COVID-19 pandemic encroaches on a second school year.

Board members voted to cancel the federally required English language arts and math assessments in third through eighth grades, fourth- and eighth-grade state science tests and high school Regents examinations. The August Regents exams were also canceled for 2021. The U.S. Department of Education is required to grant the state department’s waiver request to cancel the exams.

Yet the federal Department of Education decided not to grant blanket waivers for state assessments, leaving New York in limbo and state education officials hoping Washington will do the right thing.

“We are confident that the regulatory amendments acted on today and other assessment-related actions by the department provide for the flexibility necessary to meet federal requirements while ensuring the well-being of those in our school buildings,” state Education Department Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. said Monday.

If the federal government does not grant the waiver request, or does not respond, the four federally required Regents exams, including English, biology, earth science and algebra, will take place in June, but the August Regents exams will remain canceled. One of ELA and math assessments will be held for third- through eighth-graders, and only the written component for the fourth- and eighth-grade state science assessments if the U.S. Education Department denies the state’s waiver request.

Look at it this way: The state Education Department is making the best of a terrible situation, while the federal government, considering an option to force states to administer standardized exams at a time when nothing is standard doesn’t make sense. Students went through the wringer in 2020 and there is more to come this year. Officials are doing all they can to put the needs of students first.

It’s simply frustrating to admit that the solution, whatever it is, will likely shortchange students again in 2021.

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