New York may ease Regents requirements while holding to federal test mandate

High school girl studying in class with face mask
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School districts in New York state will still be required to administer standardized tests this year despite the pandemic, but officials are working to waive the exams graduation requirements and cancel some tests altogether.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced states would not be given a blanket waiver for federally required exams but schools could administer shorter or remote versions of the exam as well as extend testing windows.

New York State Education Department officials responded by saying they were “disappointed” in the decision but said the federal government “made the right call” in stating that no student should be made to come to school to take an exam and agree that exam results would only be used to measure student learning.

As a result, NYSED plans to propose a number of modifications to state exams during its next Board of Regents meeting in March including waiving federally required Regents Exams as a graduation requirement and canceling all non-required Regents Exams.

“USDE agreed to uncouple state assessments from accountability measures so no school will be affected by the results of state assessments and the results will solely be used as a measure of student learning,” said NYSED spokesperson Emily DeSantis in a statement. “Given these circumstances, the Department will propose a series of regulatory amendments at the March Board of Regents meeting so Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDE to be held.

New York state is required to give annual standardized tests to third though eighth-grade students and high school students are required to pass five Regents exams in a math, science, social studies, and English but state officials last month requested a waiver from the federal education department to exempt third through 12th-grade students from taking state exams this spring.

Officials argued that amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic standardized tests could not be “safely, equitably and fairly administered to students in schools across the state,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. said in a statement.

Last year, NYSED officials canceled June, August and January 2021 Regents exams due to the pandemic and allowed some students scheduled to take Regents in order to fulfill the graduation requirements to forgo exams.

Many teachers who have largely opposed administering the exams during the pandemic supported the state’s proposal.

“In a year that has been anything but standard, mandating that students take standardized tests just doesn’t make sense,” said president of New York State United Teachers Andy Pallotta.  “As the educators in the classroom, we have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, and they are especially unreliable right now. We need to ensure that our students who have been hit hardest during the pandemic receive the support they need. Sizing up students with inequitable and stressful exams is not the solution.”

This story first appeared on amny.com.