After months of anticipation, the Board of Regents announced in Mid-March that there will be only four exams taking place in June. The Board unanimously voted to cancel Regents exams, but the four federally mandated exams are to take place in June, which include Algebra, Living Environment, Earth Science, and ELA.
The NYS Board of Regents came out with the decision that the exams will not be a requirement to receive diplomas in 2021, but with exams now canceled for the second year in a row, students fail to meet government requirements to earn their diplomas. However, students do have to pass their courses in order to graduate. The rules that came out from the State also affect the summer 2021 exams. It was also announced that the 2-day tests that take place in grades 3 through 8 will only be held on one day this year. State officials are wishing for the federal government to provide a waiver for all the exams, but federal government officials say that they have no plans to cancel the four federally mandated exams.
Following the cancellation of Regents exams, local districts were left with decisions. It was up to the districts on how they wanted to go about the rest of their year. Orchard Park took the initiative and decided to not go through with local exams. Principal of Orchard Park High School, Jonathan Wolf, announced in a statement regarding Orchard Park’s plan for exams for the Spring that “rather than weighing each quarter at 20% and having the final exam be 20%, [Orchard Park] will weigh each quarter at 25% to arrive at the final grade for all full-year courses.” Wolf announced that teachers who instruct second-semester courses “will weigh each of the two quarters at 40% and have a final assessment or project completed in class be valued at 20%.” The procedure will be used for all courses, regardless of the level of the course (Regents, AP Honors, General, etc.)
Students are not the only ones making major adjustments this year with exams being canceled. Counselors and teachers e made changes to their normal end-of-the-year routine. Jennifer Stahl, the House 1 Counselor at Orchard Park, offered her thoughts on the cancellation: “NYS did the right thing by canceling most regents exams. They requested that they be given permission to cancel all of them, but the federal government did not grant their request. That is the reason that certain exams-Algebra, Living Environment, Earth Science, and ELA- are still going to be offered.”
Stahl provided more information in regard to the school’s plan for local exams. “Orchard Park is following a similar philosophy and is not giving final exams as a whole. Some teachers are opting to give in-class finals on the last few days of class, but these are designed by the teachers and can be modified as they see fit to reflect the material covered this year. They are definitely more ‘fair’ than regents exams, since they are created by OP teachers.”
As mentioned earlier, graduation requirements have had to keep up with cancellations. Counselors especially have to stay up to date with these announcements and changes. Stahl shared her positive outlook on the graduation requirement changes: “As far as graduation, there are really no negative ramifications. The fact that Regents exams won’t be given and students can receive an ‘exempt’ on their transcript actually takes the pressure off of a few seniors who may have faced not graduating if they hadn’t passed the exams. It’s tough when a student has been successful in their classes, but they miss graduation because of a few points on a test. It feels very unfair when that happens.”
Aside from AP exams, students have not faced a final or midterm exam since January of 2020. Grace Schmelzinger, a junior attending the Orchard Park High School, gave her perspective on the cancellations:
“I am definitely excited about the prospect of not having to dedicate hours to review the material that I have covered in my classes this year. But, I am also apprehensive about what this means for my exam-taking abilities. Assuming that I will be taking Regents exams senior year, it is going to be extremely challenging to have to face a multiple-hours long test that covers a year’s worth of material (something that I haven’t done since midterms sophomore year). I am taking two AP exams this year, so I am still practicing the skills that come along with taking an exam, but my classmates and I are undoubtedly losing imperative skills.”
Schmelzinger also added some insight about how her motivation has changed since the cancellations. “I think my work ethic has changed a lot in the past year in general; it was a struggle for me in the beginning of hybrid learning to figure out how to adapt to being in a classroom every other day instead of every day. But it has allowed me to hone my studying skills, and I have developed an ability to find outside resources that can help me understand challenging material.”
Stahl was also willing to give advice to students, especially freshmen, amidst the third round of cancellations: “Freshmen should be prepared to possibly take Regents exams in the future. This year is a bit of a gift, but we don’t know what NYS has in store for next year and beyond. Building good study and organization skills is key–even though they won’t need to utilize those skills for exams this year.”
AP exams will start in late May. Updates will continue from the State Board and district regarding the status of the four Regents exams.