The decision from New York State to limit the administration of Regents exams to once per year may have a dramatic affect on graduation rates according to the Mineola School District.
Traditionally administered in January, June and August, the state education department recently eliminated both the January and August test dates. Regents exams in this year.
“So now a child only has the opportunity to take the test in June,” Mineola Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said during the board of education’s , “and what we typically see with that is a decrease in graduation rates, decrease in achievement rates.”
Regents exams have already come under close scrutiny following reports that this year’s trigonometry exams were questionable, only testing a portion of the curriculum with answers to problems being called into question as to their validity. The Regents exams are supposed to test an entire school year’s curriculum.
High school juniors typically take the trigonometry exam, which is required to obtain an advanced Regents diploma upon graduation. A total of eight Regents exams are required to earn an advanced diploma.
“If you were a junior and you did not pass this test, there’s no reason for you to take it again in June, assuming you pass the class because it’s possible for you to pass the class and fail the Regents,” Dr. Nagler said.
For many students the June exam may become a must-pass situation since they may not have another opportunity or lack the willingness to retake the entire course in preparation for the exam the following year.
“Normally we get a lot more kids passing on the August test, that’s gone; January was a stretch,” Nagler said. “I can’t even in good conscience ask a child to sit for that exam a year after they covered the material, and that’s just one example. And that’s a test for an advanced Regents diploma. What happens to children that need them for a Regents diploma to graduate? You only have one shot once a year; it’s not fair to kids.”
The board under New York State’s new method of reporting high school achievement which includes the graduation rates for students who take five or 6 years to earn a diploma at the high school level. There also exists the possibility that English as a Second Language (ESL) students may not graduate high school in four or even 5 years.
“You can’t get the credit until the full year later so there was a reason they had January and August Regents exams,” Dr. Nagler said. “This was a problem a long time ago and they started August and January testing because of this problem.”
A report from the Northeast Evaluation Association (NWEA) showing students’ growth in Mineola was reportedly going to be presented at the meeting but was pushed back to the board retreat.
“For a child to repeat another year is very costly,” Board President Christine Napolitano said.
The state recently sent a questionnaire to superintendents asking if districts would pay out of pocket for the exams in August and January. While Mineola responded yes, not enough districts joined to make the plan feasible. According to the superintendent, the price per test was “just under” $6 per student. There were two costs for the exams: one to generate the test and the other to administer it, with the $6 per student being of the latter. The additional dates my become cost-prohibitive when the cost to generate the test is included.
Nagler asked residents to write letters to local Regents and state representatives saying that while “this is going to be a problem we won’t see now, but I guarantee will be a problem in a year from now.”