New York considering making Regents exams optional for students

New York state's Education Department is considering a proposal to make Regents exams optional for high school diplomas.

"Why would we think that one single test is going to give us the results we need," asked Betty Rosa, who is the New York State Education Commissioner.

The tests were originally intended to prove proficiency in subjects like math, English and science.

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Students were required to pass four of the exams in order to graduate in New York. However, Rosa argues that test results are only snapshots in time.

In a zoom interview, Rosa said students should be allowed to show off other skills. 

"We want to make sure that our students really can demonstrate strengths," she said.

But critics of changing requirements have their reservations.

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"I have a problem with the lack of standards and accountability. How do you measure their ability to succeed?" asked college advisor Andy Lockwood, with Lockwood College Prep. 

Half the country required these types of exams a decade ago but today, New York is joined by only a handful of states in making them optional. Students could still choose to take the regents to graduate, but they would also be given new ways to show their proficiency in skills including projects and presentations.

"I agree younger students are over-tested but I don’t think they’re being over-tested in high school," said Dr. Alan Singer who is a professor of education at Hofstra University. "The exams shouldn’t be abandoned until after assessments are developed."

The reforms would also replace three diplomas with just one.

Officials will create a timeline in the coming months to implement the recommendations, which could come before the Board of Regents for a vote next fall.