By Rich Bockmann
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced last week that they had secured $1.5 million in private funding in order to allow students across the state to take the state Education Department Regents Exams in January.
In June, the Education Department announced it would not offer the January exams for high school students beginning in 2012, after the state Board of Regents voted to eliminate them due to budget cuts.
Bayside HS Principal Michael Athy praised both the mayor and the chancellor for their efforts and said the exams are critical for students.
“We’re all kind of excited. This may have been a case where the mayor and chancellor were looking out for their own kids. You gotta congratulate them on that,” he said.
The Regents are administered three times a year — in January, June and August — and throughout the course of their high school careers students are required to pass one math, science, English and two social studies exams in order to graduate.
According to the mayor’s office, nearly 2,400 of the 3,454 students who graduated in the city between January and March 2011 relied on the January exams to earn their diplomas.
Athy said all students benefit from the January exams, from those students who need the extra time to study for tests they may have failed to those who have conditional acceptances from colleges.
“In January 2011, we administered about 500 tests altogether. If the tests in January were canceled, those students would have had to wait until June. Now just extrapolate that for Forest Hills, Cardozo and Francis Lewis High School. That’s 2,000 kids, easy,” he said.
The principal also said the January exams allow schools and students to split up the burdens of standardized testing, making it more efficient for the school to administer and grade the tests three times a year as opposed to two, especially for Advanced Placement students who have to take tests administered by the College Board in May.
The mayor’s office said six anonymous New Yorkers each made donations of $250,000 for a total of $1.5 million, which was accepted by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the Fund for Public Schools.
The donation only funds the exams for January 2012, and Walcott indicated he would work toward restoring them in the future.
“We will continue to work with the state Legislature and the state Education Department to find a long-term solution so that our students, especially the most vulnerable, have the best chance to succeed,” he said.
Athy said that if this is the last year for the January exams, his school will be better prepared to manage their loss in 2013.
“If this is the last hoorah, it gives us a chance to plan for the following school year,” he said. “I’m just happy to have 2012 January.ï»¿ It’s gonna save a lot of kids, let’s put it that way.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.