A person taking a multiple choice exam.The Board of Regents and the New York States Education Department are considering revising the Regents exams. ALBERTO G./FLICKR VIA CC BY 2.0

New York State residents know the toil it takes to pass a Regents exam. The countless hours of studying that go into preparing for the Regents is enough to drive anyone insane. Although we may have all suffered together, things may be different for future high school students.

This summer, the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department decided to consider revising the Regents examinations. The Board looked at factors such as graduation rates, financial situations and academic relation to other states as well as the validity of the exams themselves. They are even looking at the possibility of completely doing away with the Regents. No actions have been taken yet, but the final decisions will be made in fall 2020. If the Regents exams were to be removed, it would benefit students across New York because the tests put an unnecessary burden on students.

The Regents are a series of tests administered by the State of New York that high school students must take to receive a diploma. Typically, students must pass five exams — each in a different subject — along with receiving a passing grade in the respective class to pass the class; however, it is possible to fail the Regents associated with a particular class and still pass the class.

The main reason as to why the Education Department wants to remove or modify the Regents is because of low graduation rates among minority students. In 2018, graduation rates in New York State reached an all time high of 80.4%. Although NY graduation rates are steadily increasing, there is a drastic difference in academic achievement between those who live in lower income neighborhoods versus those in high income neighborhoods. Graduation rates were notably lower in poorly performing communities like in Rochester, whose rate was 53.5%.

The test unfairly targets students of color, students with disabilities and those who are on the lower end of the financial spectrum. The majority of underprivileged students have little to no access to the same resources as students who can afford to attend more prestigious schools.

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“The system is not working for everyone, and too many students – particularly our most vulnerable students – are leaving high school without a diploma,” Betty Rosa, the NY Regents Chancellor, said. A proper education system would allow all students to have an equal opportunity to earn a diploma. The Regents are a setback to this idea, limiting students who face hardships from reaching their full potential. To remedy this fault, the exams must be removed. 

Rosa also points out that the Department of Education needs to “rethink what a high school diploma means and what it ought to signify” and what requirements students in New York need to graduate. Apart from the curve, which heavily inflates a student’s academic ability, the Regents exams have no positive effect on students.

According to Chalkbeat, high school students are not benefiting from exit exams. In 2017, another member of the Board of Regents, Judith Johnson, stated that the Regents needed to be changed. “I don’t think the Regents exams measure what a student should know and be able to do,” Johnson said.

Exams as serious as the Regents should confidently reflect the academic ability of a student. But in reality, they are holding students back from reaching their full potential. 

As someone who was forced to earn an Advanced Regents Diploma in high school, I can confidently say that the removal of the Regents would greatly benefit students of every background.

Like many other students, the endless hours I spent studying sent me into panic attacks that negatively affected my mental health. To make matters worse, all of the preparation and panicking that I put myself through was for nought since colleges do not take Regents scores into account, further invalidating the exit exams. 

The Regents exams fail to meet every one of their intended outcomes for students. They claim to give struggling students a fair shot at receiving a diploma, but those who need the most academic help are struggling. The Regents Board claims that they give students a comprehensive overview of different areas of study, but grade with an awfully inaccurate curve.

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Members of the Regents Board agree that their test is flawed and desperately needs to be revamped. Tests as important as the Regents should continue to exist if they help students prepare for higher levels of education. Instead, they have been destroying students’ academic reputation — something that the Board of Education should be avoiding. The Regents exams are truly an academic injustice. 

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