Equity Alert: Why Regents exams matter


New York students have endured incredible challenges and disruptions to their learning during the ongoing pandemic, which have exacerbated many of the pre-existing inequities in our education system. 

And that is exactly why in this crucial moment we need to maintain high expectations for ALL students – not lower them. Now more than ever, it is critical that students leave high school with a competitive diploma that prepares them for college and the workforce. 

The Board of Regents recently proposed an amendment that would weaken graduation requirements and allow more New York students to earn a local diploma through increased leniency discouraging many from pursuing the more rigorous Regents diploma, which has long been a hallmark of the state’s education system. The proposed amendment would allow students who are unable to pass a Regents exam with more than a 50% score to earn a local diploma through a new “special determination” process. 

The New York Equity Coalition is deeply concerned about this proposed amendment. We’ll break down for you why:  

  • The class of 2014 had an on time college graduation rate of 29% and only 60% of the same class graduated in six years.  
  • Lowering graduation requirements will result in more students leaving high school underprepared for college and careers. Even before the pandemic, too many students graduated from New York high schools requiring remedial coursework in college, wasting both time and valuable financial aid dollars and making them less likely to ultimately graduate from college. 
  • When a student decides to stay in New York, a local diploma, particularly one with these new lower requirements, may be less attractive for college admissions or entry into the workforce. 

Exams are a demonstration of knowledge, and almost every career requires such a demonstration.  

Lowering standards for excellence at a time like this is an equity issue. It sends the wrong message to our students about the role of assessment and accountability in our society.  

The Board of Regents already approved this flexibility for the class of 2022. But it must stop there. The Board will consider making the amendment permanent in October, and we urge its members to reject this measure that is rooted in the soft bigotry of low expectations.  

Will you join us?