Regents 2008 Board Report
Regents 2008 Board Report: Frequently Asked Questions
Following are answers to questions that Regents are often asked.
Q: Why is testing so important?
A: The grade 3-8 assessments and the required Regents exams have measured a significant improvement in student achievement. Without these measures, the public would have no way of knowing whether student achievement has improved and by how much. New York invests billions of dollars in education. The public deserves to know whether those investments result in a better education for students. The tests show more students can read and write and do math at high levels, and know history and science.
Q: Does all that testing cause teachers to teach to the test?
A: The New York State testing program is aligned to the State Learning Standards and core curricula. It is expected that school districts will follow these in designing and delivering instruction and student evaluations. The testing program is an extension of what is already happening in classrooms; it does not require that teachers change what they are doing to meet the demands of the assessments. We are proud of the fact that our teachers are involved in the design, development, item selection, and standard-setting for the State’s testing program. They are an integral part of the process.
Q: Are required exit exams, like the Regents, responsible for low graduation rates?
A: No. In fact graduation rates have continued to slowly rise, year after year, even as the Regents exam requirements have been phased in over time. While the graduation rate is far too low, we know that more students are graduating – with meaningful diplomas – even as the testing requirements have become more rigorous. Remember, students must also earn at least 22 credits in order to graduate.
Q: Why must all students pass Regents exams to graduate?
A: More than a decade ago the public demanded a change in New York’s education system – a system that offered two tracks leading to a high school diploma: one challenging; the other, not at all. That demand came from parents; it came from higher education; and it came from the business community. Employers said that too many graduates failed interviews – or worse, failed on the job – because they didn’t know basic math, writing, and grammar. They couldn’t solve problems. Higher education protested that too many students were unprepared for college work. The two-track system meant different standards for different children. For some it meant a good education. For too many others, it meant an 8th grade education disguised by a high school diploma. So the Regents responded by adopting high standards for all. These standards require all students to prove their mastery of math, science, English, and history by passing Regents exams in all of those subjects. Additionally, Regents policy requires students to complete a rigorous academic program that includes 4 years of English and history, and 3 years of science and mathematics, among other subjects. In passing these courses, students must earn at least 22 credits.
Q: What are the Regents doing to raise the graduation rate?
A:The Regents have taken many actions to improve our graduation rate. More students are graduating each year. And the graduation rate has been increasing, but far too slowly. We require that students get extra help if the tests show they need it. We have increased the number of highly qualified teachers. The State has invested more funds in high need schools and has required that schools invest the money in programs that are proven to work. That investment needs to continue.
April 6, 2009