Aspirational Regents Requirements Put Off

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After some confusion and much discussion, the New York State Education Department has momentarily abandoned its plan to raise minimum passing requirements for its English and Math Regents exams above the standard score of 65. The plan, which was led by Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, was the latest in what has been a movement towards adjusted testing standards, which has faced some backlash from teachers and parents alike.

The department’s initiative began in May 2014, roughly a year prior to Elia’s arrival, when a memo was issued regarding a change to “aspirational scores” for the aforementioned exams, which would have required students receive at least a 75 on the English Regents and an 80 on the Math Regents, scores which fall under Performance Level 4. The Class of 2022, which would enter high school during the 2018-19 school year, would have been the first class affected. However, the 2022 aspirational goals have been placed under further review, partly due to what the department described as “widespread concern” amongst school administrators.

“The class of 2022 is our current seventh graders. The next school year, across New York, we will have thousands of these students enrolling in Algebra I as eighth graders,” the department said in a statement to Anton Media Group, referring to the possibility that eighth graders in advanced math would face undue difficulty. “After hearing widespread concern about the potential move to aspirational passing scores in 2022, and because of the upcoming revision to the New York state learning standards, the move to aspirational scores is being suspended.”

In a recent memo to the state’s superintendents, principals and nonpublic school administrators, Elia noted that the revisions to the state’s learning standards would be presented to the Board of Regents this spring. The department didn’t provide details on what the upcoming revisions could entail, but said that they “will convene a committee to study the issue in depth.” The only certainty, for the moment, is that the class of 2022 won’t be required to score better than 65 on the two exams.

“Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents will carefully consider what that committee advises, and they will take the time to get the decision right by upholding New York’s rigorous standards while implementing any changes in a thoughtful and measured way,” the department further stated.

In addition to the apprehension the plan was greeted with by several school administrators, who questioned whether a change to aspirational score requirements would be conducive to students’ success, the plan faced resistance from several parents. Jeanette Deutermann, the founder of the Long Island Opt Out Group, called the idea of raising Regents requirements “misguided at best,” feeling it would “place the bar out of reach for many of our future graduates.”

“Standardized test scores tell you very little about a student,” Deutermann said. “New York currently has the most exit exams required for a diploma of any state in this country and we must move towards increased pathways for a high school diploma.”

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Joseph Catrone is the editor of Farmingdale Observer, Hicksville News, Levittown Tribune and Massapequa Observer. He is also a contributing writer to Long Island Weekly and Anton Media Group's special sections.

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