Timeline fast tracked for rethinking Regents exams and other grad requirements

A close up of graduates wearing blue gowns and mortar boards with gold stoles.

The fate of New York’s storied Regents exams — and other changes to high school graduation requirements — may be decided sooner than anticipated, state education officials confirmed Monday. 

After years of discussing how New York’s graduation policies should change, officials launched a special commission last year to present recommendations to the Board of Regents by the spring or summer of 2024. Their findings are now expected in November, Deputy Commissioner Angelique Johnson said at Monday’s monthly Board of Regents meeting. 

That moves up the timeline by at least a few months, though a spokesperson for the state education department did not immediately say how long the board would take to deliberate over the recommendations or when new diploma requirements might go into effect. 

The state’s reconsideration of graduation requirements is perhaps its most high profile effort in recent years. It has caused substantial debate and discussion over what students should be required to know before they leave high school. 

The big question is what officials will decide to do with New York’s Regents exams, which have been offered since the 1870s and are required of most students to earn their diplomas. New York is in the minority of states that still require such exit exams, and research has found little evidence that high-stakes graduation exams improve student achievement. 

The 64-member commission, which includes educators, district leaders, advocacy organizations, and some researchers, has been discussing other things they think should factor into graduation requirements, including what skills employers are looking for. 

The commission began meeting in fall of 2022 and were told a few months later to fast track their recommendations, but multiple commission members told Chalkbeat they didn’t recall the reasoning behind the change. The commission is expected to meet over three days in July to begin finalizing their recommendations. 

Dia Bryant, executive director of Ed-Trust New York and a member of the commission, said she’s concerned that her fellow members and others advising the commission, such as students, parents, and educators, will feel pressed for time and may forgo sharing feedback about potential policy changes that will be floated. 

She’s also concerned about how the public will get to review recommendations before the Regents consider changes.

“There is depth to each of those spaces that I think needs room to breathe so that we can actually develop recommendations that will sort of be both relevant and important, not just in 2023 but in the future, because these policies are so important,” Bryant said. 

Reema Amin is a reporter covering New York City public schools. Contact Reema at ramin@chalkbeat.org.

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