New York Plans to Ditch Regents Exam as Graduation Requirement

Jen Krausz
By Jen Krausz
June 12, 2024Education
New York Plans to Ditch Regents Exam as Graduation Requirement
A student takes an exam in a stock photo. (Singkham/Shutterstock)

The New York State Board of Regents presented a plan at its meeting on Monday to drop the Regents Exam as a graduation requirement for students in the state. Instead, the board plans to use “multiple, rigorous pathways” for students to earn a diploma.

The plan came from a state Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures that began to examine the current system in 2019. In November 2023, the commission presented goals to the board that have now been formulated into the new plan.

Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said in a press release that the new plan will bring greater equity to the state system of education, especially for minority students and those with learning disabilities.

“The bold vision we are advancing today is a direct result of countless hours of collaborative work from an incredibly diverse group of expert practitioners and the public,” Ms. Rosa said in a statement.

“The educational transformation we envision reflects the thoughtful input we received from our stakeholders – particularly from public school students and their families. It takes an incredible amount of time, work, and collaborative effort to transform an education system, and we will not stop working until we get the job done right for all New Yorkers.”

Part one of the plan is to adopt the “Portrait of a Student” model that uses different types of evidence to show students have met the requirements for graduation. Some of the criteria for this portrait include critical thinking, problem-solving, being literate across content areas, cultural competence, social-emotional competence, effective communication, and being a global citizen.

Instead of a time-based credit system, students would have more options to demonstrate competence under the new model, including approved word- or service-based learning experiences, dual enrollment programs with colleges, and participation in the arts.

Passing the Regents Exam would be one way to demonstrate competence, but not the only way as it is now. Other state assessments will still be given, but are not used as a graduation requirement.

Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. addressed criticisms that the plan would water down current requirements and standards for students to graduate from New York schools.

“From the very beginning of this effort, I have urged people to understand that our work is about raising the bar for all,” he said in a statement. “True equity and excellence in education is achievable – but only if we provide all students with meaningful educational opportunities and multiple avenues for them to demonstrate their mastery of the State’s rigorous learning standards.

“Our job is to prepare students for a lifetime of continuous learning, fulfilling careers, and informed civic engagement. Let’s provide them with the tools to do that – and then let’s stand back and watch as they pursue their own pathway to success.”

The NYSED will present its proposal in public forums between July and October and will then present a projected timeline in November. Any changes to the state’s graduation requirements will need board approval.

For this graduation season, the Regents Exam requirement is still in effect.

The Regents Exam has been a fixture in New York state education since 1878, but most states do not now require exams for graduation.

Critics of the plan are worried that the new standards will be vague and meaningless, giving high school diplomas to students who haven’t done the work to earn them.

On X, Yang, who calls himself a contrarian from Brooklyn, said, “We are watching the deterioration of academic standards at a rapid rate, much of it due to the need for ‘equity.’ This policy will just make all kids worse off.”

If students are unprepared for higher education or the workforce, as Yang suggests, all of society will suffer those consequences along with them.