Tag Archives: Black Boys Report

Why I Support Keeping New York State Regents Examinations.

If you attended public high school in New York State you undoubtedly took regents examinations, tests that go back to the 1865 (See a history of regents examinations here) While the test format has changed over the years the current tests are content-based tests created by classroom teachers.

For decades the state offered a Regents diploma for college-bound students and a local diploma for others that required passing a far less difficult Regents Competency Test (RCT). After years of discussion, sparked by criticism of the limited skills required of RCT diploma graduates from the employer community, the state phased in a single Regents diploma in the mid-1990’s in an attempt to raise the skills of high school students, aka, to make them more college and career ready. (Admittedly a difficult to define term: more in future blogs)

Tests are used to assess student learning and to guide instruction; in order to change outputs you must change inputs. I was invited to sit in on a meeting in a public secondary school: Algebra 1 teachers had completed grading the regents exam and created an error matrix, the most common incorrect answers. The teachers were reviewing their own lesson plans: how could they change their lessons to more effectively address the underlying instructional issues?

Over my teaching career I “cut and pasted” questions from prior regents exams, a common practice. The questions are created by classroom teachers and reflect the state curriculum frameworks.

The New York State Social Studies K-12 Frameworks were created by teachers under the guidance of the State Education Department and revised every couple of years.

The Social Studies regents exams consist of fifty artfully crafted multiple choice questions, a document-based question and a thematic question.

Yes, forty small high schools, mostly in New York City, called the Performance-Based Assessment Consortium are designed so that the instruction leads to the creation of a portfolio and a year-long research project

Students must complete graduation-level written tasks and oral presentations, known as PBATs (performance-based assessment tasks), including an analytic essay on literature, a social studies research paper, an extended or original science experiment, and problem-solving at higher levels of mathematics. Students must also take and pass the NYS English Language Arts Regents exam. Schools may add on additional tasks, for example, in the creative arts, foreign language, and supervised internships.

 I have visited PBAC schools many times; however, in the vast percentage of high schools teachers teach five periods a day with about 30 kids per class – 150 kids: schools would have to be totally redesigned to fit the Consortium Model.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) polled members over their attitudes about Regents Exams,

More than two-thirds think all students should continue to be provided with the opportunity to take Regents exams, even if students are not required to pass Regents exams to graduate.

More than half said there should be a statewide test like a Regents exam to determine proficiency in a specific subject.

Respondents were split when asked if the current number of required Regents exams is on target. Forty-nine percent said it’s the right number; 38 percent said there are too many; and 8 percent weren’t sure.

Let’s look at a recent American History regents question; the thematic essay on the last American History and Government exam; below is a question we would expect all students to be able to answer.


Directions: Write a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several paragraphs addressing the task below, and a conclusion.

Theme: Amendments

The writers of the United States Constitution included an amending process to respond to changing times and unforeseen circumstances. Since the Civil War, important amendments have had an impact on the United States and/or on American society.

Task: Select two amendments to the United States Constitution since the Civil War and for each

  • Describe the historical circumstances surrounding the adoption of the amendment
  • Discuss the impact of this amendment on the United States and/or on American society

You may use any constitutional amendment that has been added since the Civil War.

Some suggestions you might wish to consider include:

13th amendment—abolition of slavery (1865)

18th amendment—Prohibition (1919)

15th amendment—African American male suffrage (1870)

19th amendment—woman’s suffrage (1920)

16th amendment—graduated income tax (1913)

26th amendment—18-year-old vote (1971)

17th amendment—direct election of United States senators (1913)

You are not limited to these suggestions.

Guidelines: In your essay, be sure to:

  • Develop all aspects of the task
  • Support the theme with relevant facts, examples, and details
  • Use a logical and clear plan of organization, including an introduction and a conclusion that are beyond a restatement of the theme.


State Education Department provides a scorers guide and anchor essays at each scoring level. The American History and Government exam will change in format in June, 2020 and SED explains the changes in minute detail (See here)

I support retaining Regents Examinations.

There are some students who are doing passing work for the entire term and fail the Regents by a few points? To the best of my knowledge the state does not collect this kind of data.

Perhaps SED should consider a safety net to address the situation above.

Currently in spite of passing regents exams, passing the required courses and graduating high schools community college students have poor retention rates.

The most recent three-year graduation rate is 26 percent at State University of New York (SUNYcommunity colleges and 22 percent at City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges. The most recent six-year graduation rate is 32 percent at SUNY community colleges and 33 percent at CUNY community colleges

 An in-depth study of community college completion rates shows rates are stagnant or falling while high school graduation rates are creeping upwards.

The state report does not disaggregate Black students by gender; The Black Boys Report from the Schott Foundation also paints a depressing picture of NYS high school graduation rates.

While graduation rates across the state continue to creep upwards the reason may be the sharp increase in students utilizing the Multiple Pathways option,

This year, school districts reported that more than 13,200 students earned a diploma through one of the new pathways, a 15-percent increase over last year.

 The state has no data on the performance of students using the Multiple Pathways option in college.

A report to the Board of Regents “What Success Looks Like: Key Practices of Unscreened High Schools That Have Dramatically Improved and/or Consistently Surpass the NYS Graduation Rate for Young Men of Color,” points to “Rigorous, Relevant Curricula/High Impact Instruction” as the key to improving outcomes.

While other states are raising the bar for graduation, acknowledging that our schools and students have to increases their knowledge and skills in this rapidly changing world we may be looking in the opposite direction. Yes, too many of our kids live in poverty, in traumatized neighborhoods and suffer from generations of the impact of racism, the “answers” must not be to lower the bar.

The My Bothers Keeper report referenced above shows that with the engaged and collaborative leadership, fully involved teachers, adequate funding and commitment schools can prepare our kids for the world ahead.