With June Regents canceled, here’s how New York schools will decide who graduates

New York students who were set to take one or more Regents exams this June will be excused from those tests so long as they pass the related course, state officials announced Tuesday.

The guidance comes after Chancellor Betty Rosa, of the New York State Board of Regents, announced Monday that June exit exams will be canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It was welcome news for some educators and elected officials who have grown increasingly concerned that students now learning remotely won’t be prepared for the tests, especially given their varying access to laptops and the internet. Tuesday’s guidance allows teachers some more flexibility as they craft their remote lesson plans.

“I think it’s extremely helpful,” said Ronnie Almonte, a high school biology teacher at Edward R. Murrow High School. “This is what I was anticipating and hoping for.”

For others, the guidance raised questions about how schools will ensure that students are being prepared for life after high school. 

In lieu of requiring exit exams to ensure readiness, Ian Rosenblum, executive director of Education Trust New York, hoped the state would provide a plan for how high schools should support their graduating seniors, “a commitment that the state will publicly and transparently report on their outcomes to and through college.”

“Without ensuring that supports are also in place to assist high school seniors, simply providing them with a diploma when they are not yet ready for college, careers, and active citizenship risks leaving far too many students unprepared to navigate their future, especially in these uncertain times,” Rosenblum told Chalkbeat by email.

Here’s what we know about what graduation requirements will look likes as school buildings throughout the state remain shuttered. 

🔗Who is exempt from the June tests?

Students who planned to take one or more Regents exams in June will be exempt so long as they pass the related course this school year. The same standard applies for students who wanted to take a 4+1 Pathway exam, which offers an alternative to a traditional Regents test. 

If a student has already passed a course but was planning to take the exam in June, they will also be exempt from the exam. If a student fails the course, they must take summer school and pass the class in order to earn the diploma credit by August. 

Students who wanted to retake the test to get a passing score must show that they intended to take the June exam: They must have already informed their school that they wished to retake a Regents exam in June, received tutoring or academic intervention to prepare for the test, or have already recently retaken the exam in an attempt to raise their score. 

Districts will still be required to allow students exempted from June exams to take the test at a later time if they wish. 

🔗Are August exams still happening?

As of now, yes. State guidance released Tuesday said officials were deciding whether or not to cancel the August tests.

🔗How will students be graded on courses?

The state has provided broad guidance on this. The New York City Department of Education has said school work will be “collected and graded,” but grading policies could vary from school to school. 

Online learning should prepare students for the course’s final exam, the state guidance says. If schools and districts are dealing with long-term building closures, students should be granted diploma credit so long as students have “met the standards assessed in the provided coursework.” 

For science exams, students will not be required to fulfill the 1,200 minutes of lab time.

That was welcome news to Almonte, the Brooklyn biology teacher, who said his school was considering various virtual lab platforms. He’s still planning to offer those to his students, but now there’s less pressure to figure out the logistics in order to meet state standards.

“I think what’s nice about it is, we’re not going to be forced to do a lab every week in order to satisfy some bureaucratic requirement,” Almonte said. “We can actually take time and take the virtual labs that we think are really valuable.”

🔗What about advanced Regents diplomas?

Students who want to earn an advanced Regents diploma must pass nine tests: English, Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra II/Trigonometry, social studies, two science exams, any Languages Other Than English exam, and one additional test, including an alternative option approved by the state. 

Students exempted from June exams can still earn an Advanced Regents diploma. A student must have passed all other exams necessary to earn the advanced designation, but won’t be required to pass the tests they were planning to take in June.