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Regent says changes for year-end exams being considered

Local education experts are discussing distance learning: where it’s working, where it’s failing and how parents can get help.

An administrator of the Sachem schools urged that the state Regents examinations that ordinarily cap the academic year be canceled, or at least made optional, due to the coronavirus pandemic — and a Regent suggested such changes were in the works.

Speaking Thursday afternoon at a Newsday LIVE webinar, the administrator, Erin Hynes, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction of the Sachem Central School District, said there is worry and stress at the secondary school level, as college application time looms.

Noting that January’s Regents examinations have already been canceled, Hynes said regarding the end-of-school-year exams that students would benefit "if that stress can be lifted, and whether it’s completely canceled or it’s choice or what have you."

"But these are real kids having to take on additional stress I’m not sure we necessarily need to be doing to them. And that’s not saying that, you know, assessments aren’t important," said Hynes, who came to the district in 2017 after working in the Comsewogue, Center Moriches, South Manor, and New York City school systems.

Across Long Island and the world, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted school shutdowns and changes to how students experience education, with a mix of in-person and at-home sessions. The pandemic response has also altered how students are tested, from the Regents exams to federally-mandated standardized tests.

The state Board of Regents, which administers the exams covering subjects like math, science and social studies, had already canceled the exams scheduled for this past June and August and the ones for the forthcoming January, and are waiving the Regents exam requirement for graduation, with credit for teacher-approved coursework in required subjects.

The June 2021 exams are tentatively scheduled for June 2, then June 15 through June 25, according to an August letter from the state Education Department, which didn't return a message Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.

Roger Tilles of Manhasset, the Regent who was also on Newsday’s webinar panel, which was titled "Is your child falling behind in school during the pandemic?," said in response to Hynes: "I can tell you, we are working on a set of parameters for districts to have accountability, but to base it upon the kinds of tests that they are already doing," such as those from the organization NWEA, "and then post-equating them, to make them comparable to judge a district, or to judge things that are going on accountability-wise, without harming the students, when they go on to college or career or whatever else."

In March, the federal government took the unprecedented step of allowing all states to cancel those required tests for the 2019-2020 school year, a waiver that every state used. But in September, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that states shouldn’t expect the same for the current school year.

At the Sachem district, the secondary school program has a separate remote academy, hired staff for after school, with the lessons recorded, and students get about three hours of instruction in core classes.

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