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Why have Regents Exams?

December 28, 2009 pm31 12:25 pm

For those of you in New York State – why?

What do they do? What do they measure?

(and while we have 1 English, 2 Histories, 3 Maths, 4 Sciences, and who knows how many languages, I’d like an answer that fits all of them. Or one answer that fits some and another that fits the rest.)

15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2009 pm31 4:06 pm 4:06 pm

    So Pearson can siphon lots of money from taxpayers while public schools are further degraded and slowly replaced with charters, founded and administered by other people making their personal fortunes from taxpayer dollars.

    • December 28, 2009 pm31 9:42 pm 9:42 pm

      Yes. And the money aspect is alarming. But a bunch of the exams are produced in-house. There’s got to be more than the money.

      Does the State anywhere state its intent? Do they explain why we give the tests?

  2. December 28, 2009 pm31 4:45 pm 4:45 pm

    In case your question isn’t rhetorical, this is an interesting read from a historical perspective:

    It is doesn’t answer why but does present the history behind it.

    • December 28, 2009 pm31 9:40 pm 9:40 pm

      My question was pointed, but not rhetorical.

      The document you point to is fascinating. Really, anyone looking at secondary education in NY should have a look-see. But it tells us where the Regents exams came from. Their history.

      Why do we have them today? What do they measure?

      The answer, if it exists, has to be different than it was 60 years ago. But I think we (education folks, teachers included) in NY State worry about the Regents year after year, too easy, too hard, just right, too wordy, too strange, too changed, too repeated…. But we don’t worry about why we give them in the first place.

      I think if we did, there might be some interesting conversations happening.

  3. December 29, 2009 pm31 1:17 pm 1:17 pm

    First, I can say that I heartily approve of end-of-course testing and I used to envy NY — when the Regents tests were rigorous and the Regents diploma was an option that required diligence. effort and smarts.

    Recently, however, this question is no longer as easy to answer. The cut score and the curve have made it less useful as a comparison between years but that’s not really the point of accountability anymore.

    Some offhand thoughts:

    A state-wide (or even district-wide) EOY test is desirable. I feel that consistency is a good thing – it gives a measurable way to compare students, both to each other and to a norm. It might not be perfect (or even good) but you can still look at the results and get a sense of your students.

    It’s good for the students to have a goal.
    It’s bad for all students to have the same goal.

    The mix of questions is odd and unpredictable – that’s no good.
    The mix prevents the test-prep industry from taking over, leaving the teachers to teach and hope.

    Replace it with what? Regents a known entity. The SAT or ACT isn’t tailored to your courses.

    My Integrated I class is nothing like your Integrated I (or whatever you call it). If I’m in college admissions, I like having one test.

    My class is completely under my control. For good or ill. There is nothing in common between Integrated I classes in my school except a vague curriculum and a textbook. We don’t use the same tests, quizzes, or exam (until I wrote a Snazzy final on the computer and offered it around). My thumbdrive holds thousands of extra files, etc. The other teachers have other materials.

    I read until late last night, so I haven’t really thought this reply out. Forgive the rambling nature!

    • December 29, 2009 pm31 5:16 pm 5:16 pm

      If we’re not starting with a finished answer, and I’m certainly not, then a certain amount of rambling comes with the territory. You did manage to hit a few nerves.

      End of year or end of course? I think there’s a big difference, especially as NY State claims there is not a curriculum that goes along with my courses (math), just standards.

      Or, I really should ask, end of course, end of year, or end of high school? I’m kind of thinking that the rest of the discussion depends on the answer to this, but as far as I know, there is no clear answer.

      I almost want to hold off on anything else, until there is some sort of idea of what they are being designed to do.

      At this point, I think we have exams because we used to have exams. And I am doubting if that is good enough.

  4. 70's graduate permalink
    January 14, 2010 pm31 10:38 pm 10:38 pm

    The regents exams led to a regents dipolma which I acheived and it had some weight on college applications back then. A few years before that a regents dipolma also came with a regents scholarship which was an acheivement based award. It was later deemed to be unfair to minorites because they acheived them at a much lower rate tgen whites so it was deemed biased and the scholarship aspect was removed leaving only what is in place now. Even without the scholarship a regents dipolma was cosidered an excellent achievement.

  5. marie permalink
    March 7, 2010 am31 11:36 am 11:36 am

    i think regents exams are awful. they force teachers to only teach how to take a test. the kids are not learning about history/math/science/ they learning “tricks” to take tests . one example is that they have an entire industry just for “calculator tricks” also the language of the tests are not language used in classrooms.

    teachers from living environment regents spend all year trying to guess what will be on the test and then teach those things.

    the problem is that sometimes the test is mostly human biology, and sometimes not. you never know.

    this type of testing is holding back good students from graduation in ny. it is also a type of testing that is unfair to poor/middle class; who cannot afford expensive review classes to learn the “language of the test”

    i say end it now.

  6. March 11, 2010 pm31 2:10 pm 2:10 pm

    I am strongly in support of regents exams as a CUNY professor, as a parent and as someone who took the exams myself years ago.

    As a parent in NYC where kids have some choice of middle school and lots of schoices in high school, I used the regents scores to assess which is the right school for my children. My oldest is a 4 in math and 3 in reading on state exams, and so I worked to find a school for her where at least the top 20% of students were scoring very high on the math and science regents exams (subjects where she can handle a challenge).

    As a professor, I see the regents exams as a way of ensuring that students know they are preparing for college level math exams. The Regents A and B exams were a failure but the Sequential I-III and Algebra/Geometry/Trig series really prepared students to enter college and take precalculus. Even better, a student might take precalculus or even calculus in high school. A strong grade on the third regents indicated a readiness for precalc. Students with straight A’s in school who score only a 75 on the regents have a warning that they do not in fact know the subject. The Algebra Regents sets a reasonable standard for placement into college algebra and humanities majors in college and students aiming for these subjects don’t have to take all three math regents exams and can take easier math classes in high school which don’t aim for the Regents. The Algebra regents also provides a route for middle school students to get ahead, enabling them to take a year of precalculus and a year of calculus in high school. Otherwise one needs another placement exam to determine where to put students at the beginning of college.

    Before the AB Regents fiasco, Regents exams were very good predictors of how students would place once they arrived in college. This avoided the shock students would feel taking a placement exam (in fact they often weren’t even asked to take a placement exam if they had done well on all three math regents exams. They would just go straight into precalc or take a precalc placement exam).

    Personally I think we need a fourth math regents: a precalculus exam. As it is, one of the biggests wastes of time for a high school student is taking calculus senior year without appropriate preperation. They end up placed back into precalculus in college.

    In short, exams display what students know and what they are taught in preparation for college. Teachers can supplement classes with extra material, buit the regents sets a minimum standard of what people need to know for college. In my high school we learned way beyond regents material and students with A- in our classes could score 98 or 100 on the Regents.

    • March 14, 2010 am31 10:13 am 10:13 am

      All we need is a strong advisory from the State that we want kids to take precalc before calc. This does not require an exam.

      I strongly agree that a preparation year before calc is worthwhile, and necessary for most students. But I shudder to think of the sorts of in-depth investigations and treatments of topics that take place in precalc, in the districts that use that course, and what would happen to them if teachers were required to teach to a test… a test of the same quality that NY State currently produces for other courses.

      I don’t know how good the Regents were at predicting college placement 12 – 15 years ago. But I know that they are no good now. And I know that the new exams will not be appreciably better than A and B. Yes, a college placement exam is necessary now, and a college placement exam will be necessary in the future. State Ed has adopted and readopted tests that will not be helpful here.

      I would be concerned to learn that colleges are basing placement on scores on current regents exams. I hope that none are.

  7. March 11, 2010 pm31 2:12 pm 2:12 pm

    In contrast the SAT’s have no correlation with placement in college and give no indication as to where a student should start coursework. They just do not cover all the prerequisite material for precalculus and do not provide distinct grades for distinct subjects. Its a little too little a little too late to start testing students only at the AP level.

  8. Lindsey permalink
    April 6, 2010 pm30 9:31 pm 9:31 pm

    I am 18 years old and I live in NY State. The regents have held me back from graduating High School. I have re-taken them over and over again and have not passed. I also got toutered for it also and I STILL did not pass. I am in special ed also. I think the regents are totally rediclious because school should be based on how well you did in your classes and how well your grades are, it should not be based on a stupid test. They should totally be optional. Colleges hardly look at them. They just look at your HS Deploma and see if you graduated. I am turning 19 and I am getting my GED cause that’s all I can do right now. I heard they are canceling some of the regents. I only failed 2, which is Global and US History Regents. I just hope the vote passes to discontuine them. I need to get my life started already!

  9. Class of 2011 permalink
    April 9, 2010 pm30 5:36 pm 5:36 pm

    I personally like how the Regents exams were held years ago, where it was a decision to take a Regents class or not. Now it is mandatory for all New York students to take a certain number of Regents tests just to graduate. The ones that I took were the Earth Science, Math A, German, Biology, Global History Regents, and English Regents, and I’m going to be taking the Chemistry, Math B, and U.S History ones this June. My next three ones are the ones I’m concerned about, because the Math and Chemistry classes are extremely hard. A few people are failing. There are a few seniors left in my Math class because they didn’t pass the Regents.

    Do you know how bad this is for New York students applying to colleges within state? Most of the SUNYs and CUNYs are looking for a certain amount of required courses taken in high school. Take math for example. Most of them are looking for four years of math. Well, if you pass the Math B class, but fail the Regents, guess what? You won’t be getting into that fourth year of math that you need for that one oh-so-special school, especially because you won’t be able to re-learn two years worth of math within two months to re-take it in August. As a mandatory exam to take, these Regents hold most New York highschoolers back. My personal opinion? The Regents should only be held for those in Honors/Accelerated classes (Not including AP students…they have their own worries). The ones who are just average students should just have to pass some sort of Final exam.

    As we speak, things are changing. For the math curriculum, courses are being changed right below my class. As far as I’m concerned, they have no Math A Regents anymore, but something else equivalent to that. They’re doing the same thing for the Math B one; after this year, there will be no more Math B. I’m not sure if this means there will be no more math Regents for the class of 2012 and beyond, because there are debates being held over that. From what I’ve heard, New York State is still going to be keeping the English Regents (God only knows we need that), but a few other subjects will be lessened, like maybe two mandatory Science ones and one History one. Don’t quote me on that, but it’s something like that.

  10. concerned parent permalink
    June 5, 2012 pm30 4:31 pm 4:31 pm

    I am the parent of a special education student. He is a student who has worked extremely hard his entire academic career, he has barely missed school and gives it his all! He still needs to pass 1 required RCT (regents compentacy test) in order to graduate! If he should pass this exam, he will only receive a Local Diploma not a Regents Diploma, if he does not pass, he does not get to graduate or he can receive an IEP Diploma (which basically is a certificate of attendence) something he does not deserve! Regents Exams are not for all, when will NYS realize this can be demoralizing to a student, especially to those students who are special needs.


  1. NY State considers dumping most “Regents” Exams « JD2718

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