What should it take to earn a high school diploma in New York City? That was the question about fifty educators and parents considered Wednesday night, as the state Board of Regents considers changes to graduation requirements.
“The way to do that is not to do it from on high, telling everybody what they should do,” said Kathleen Cashin, a member of the Board of Regents. “The way we’re going to do it and are doing it is bottom up.”
The board, which helps set education policy, is holding regional meetings across the state — and this was the first of several in New York City. Among the issues on the table: the future of the Regents’ exams, which are tests given in subject areas like math and social studies. Most students need to pass five to graduate.
“Some people love the Regents. There are people that love the Regents,” Cashin said. “There are people that do not like the Regents. And there are those in the middle.”
Most states don’t require subject-area standardized tests like the Regents for a high school diploma, and among the questions being considered is whether New York should. Also on the table is offering multiple pathways to graduation, the Regents for some, options like portfolios or different assessments for others.
“I think what we were hearing again and again is that Regents exams as the only way for students to demonstrate their readiness for high school graduation just aren’t doing their job.”
Attendees discussed those concerns and ideas for the future in small groups during the meeting.
“The biggest challenge as a teacher is that when you have a test at the end you naturally are going to teach your students to be well prepared to be successful on that test,” said Nancy Cummings. “We lose some of the freedom. We lose the ability to go into some of what might be more exciting or engaging for our students.”
But not everybody was convinced the feedback would actually make a difference — concerned the board already intends to end the exams.
“The key word here is charade. This entire meeting here is nothing more than a charade,” said Wade Goria, a former teacher at John Dewey High School.
Several meetings will be held throughout the city in the coming weeks to allow more parents, educators and others to offer their feedback.