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The Regents: To Test or Not to Test - An Introduction

by Leslie Seifert - October 15, 2000

A commentary on the new Regents Exams in New York

In the spring of 2000, for the first time, every high school senior in New York State had to pass the English Regents exam to graduate. The state plans to phase in examinations in other subjects over the next several years, as part of an effort to increase accountability and toughen standards. In May of 2000, the state Board of Regents voted to grade every school publicly based on the examination results.

Questions arise: Is the test fair? Is it leading to better education? To better teaching? More learning? Better schools?

Newsday's Viewpoints section invited principals, teachers, students and professors of education to contribute essays on various sides of the testing issue. Ten essays were published in June of 2000. They cover the following subjects:

  • One English teacher finds that the Regents exams help students to learn about writing or literature, while another says they lead to formulaic thinking and rote performance. One says the exams force her to teach for the test, but the other says they help students take studying more seriously.
  • Roger W. Bowen, president of the State University of New York at New Paltz, says students in schools ranked low by the state will be disadvantaged in gaining admission into college unless they can offset the school's low ranking with high SAT scores. This will send these students the wrong message: that SAT scores are more important than their grade-point average.
  • One high school senior finds the Regents exams limit what is covered in classes; another says the exams can lift students struggling with subject matter but hold back those who do very well in school; a college sophomore says the exams help build study skills needed for college.
  • Linda Darling-Hammond, who chaired the New York State Curriculum and Assessment Council and now is professor of education at Stanford University, says that quality learning is being trampled in the rush to tougher standards and that many low-scoring students will be pushed out of school. "The system feels like one big 'gotcha' that sets up failure."
  • One principal says that the Regents exams are lifting expectations for each child, rather than just the best students, as was the case in the past. Another says that the exams actually keep teaching and learning standards too low.
  • Nathan Glazer, professor emeritus of education and sociology at Harvard, writes that a high school diploma ought to mean something, but that state tests should be adapted to fit different kinds of students: college and non-college bound.

The entire collection of essays can be found at:

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 15, 2000
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10594, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 7:04:18 PM

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