Some Long Island school districts have adopted or are considering a “Do No Harm” policy on Regents exams, where a low score on the state exam will not factor into a student’s course average but a good grade will.
Some school systems said the change only applies to the school year that just ended in June and could be reconsidered in the fall. At least one district recently announced the policy will extend into the coming school year.
The change is a way to lessen test anxiety, educators said, and is part of an approach to meet the social and emotional needs of students. Some school systems instituted the procedure during the COVID-19 pandemic and extended it this past school year. Thousands of mostly high school students took their Regents exams last month.
Center Moriches High School Principal Marissa Mangogna wrote to parents in June, saying “every student who took a Regents exam will have their Regents score on their report card. However, the grade will only be factored in if it is helpful to the student. … If the Regents grade will help your child's course average, it WILL be factored into the final average."
WHAT TO KNOW
- Some Long Island school districts have adopted or are considering a “Do No Harm” policy on Regents exams in which a low score on the state exam will not factor into a student’s course average but a good grade will.
- Some school systems said the change only applies to the school year that just ended in June and could be reconsidered in the fall.
- The State Education Department said it is up to local schools to determine how to incorporate Regents scores.
If a Regents score helps a student improve a course grade, the teacher will enter it as a final exam counting as 10% of the grade. If the score does not help, then each quarter's grade will be weighted 25% and the Regents score not applied to the final course grade, she said.
"You will see the Regents exam only once on your child's report card; it will not be listed in the final exam column," she wrote.
The letter referenced the 2022-23 school year, but she said the change extends into the 2023-24 school year as well.
"The Regents and standardized tests [are] not just affecting our kids on an academic level, it's also affecting their mental health," she said in an interview. "They're getting very anxious when it comes time to take these tests. They're not locally created. So there is a lot riding on them."
Mangogna said students will want to excel on the exams because doing well can positively impact a student's final course grade.
Students have to pass five exams
Students in New York still have to pass five of these exams to graduate, including one each in English, math, science and social studies. Only a handful of states mandate that high school seniors pass standardized tests to earn a diploma. New York's Board of Regents, which sets much of the state's education policy, is in the process of reexamining graduation requirements, including use of these exams.
Some supporters of Regents exams say the tests show mastery of a subject and students may not try to excel on the tests if the exams do not matter. The scores appear on a student's transcript sent to colleges, and admissions officials say they can be a factor in admissions.
The state Education Department said it is up to local schools to determine how to incorporate Regents scores. A 2016 memo said the state "does not require or recommend that schools use Regents examination grades as part of the calculation on the student's final average." Officials there said that policy still stands.
The Three Village School District Board of Education discussed changes on how it handled Regents scores at its April 26 meeting. The district in Suffolk County did not count low Regents exam scores when computing final course grades during the pandemic and had not planned to include them for the 2022-23 school year. School officials at the meeting said community members had asked for the procedure to be reconsidered.
Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Brian Biscari said at the meeting a grading committee that included high school teachers, administrators and guidance counselors had recommended against extending it.
"It was the understanding of the group that that was a one-year decision," he said. In Three Village, Regents scores had counted for 12% of a student’s final grade. "The feeling was that the students weren't taking the Regents exams as seriously as they had in the past. … Again that [score] does get posted on their transcript."
Trustee Jennifer Solomon supported extending the change.
"Some of our community members call it the 'Do No Harm' policy, and I think extending it is appropriate in light of the pervasive and ongoing social and emotional issues we continue to see among our students," she said at the meeting.
The board voted in April to approve the change for the 2022-23 school year and bring it up for discussion for the coming school year.
Resident starts petition in support
In the Hewlett-Woodmere district, resident Amil Virani, 21, started a petition supporting the policy.
“Our students are really hurting from COVID," he said, adding that many colleges already have abandoned using standardized testing in admissions. The district had considered a Regents score as 20% of a student's final course grade, he said. If a student had a bad day during the test, "Your final grade in the class would be really hurt," he said.
According to the district, the board voted June 14 to keep the policy for the 2022-23 school year by a vote of 6-1.
Hewlett High school rising junior Jordan Sita, 16, said the rule should be permanent.
"I know there are a lot of students that maintain very good grades over the year and … and then get a 70 on the Regents, and that brings the grade down — and that could make their final class grade look very bad," Sita said. "Schools shouldn't be designed to negatively impact students. Their main thing should be to help students learn."
Another scoring policy change instituted during the pandemic by the state called Special Appeal expires in August. Under that policy, students who pass the class but receive between a 50 and a 64 on the Regents exam can receive a special appeal that appears on a student transcript as "SA." They still earn credit for the exam as well.
More colleges and universities nationwide recently have dropped using standardized tests — such as the SAT and ACT — for admissions. Earlier this year, the State University of New York eliminated its requirement that students submit SAT or ACT standardized test scores when applying to its four-year colleges.
Farmingdale State College officials said the school does consider Regents exam scores as part of its overall admissions review process; and even more so for determining admission to the college's more competitive and academically demanding programs.
Dawn S. Medley, vice provost for enrollment management and retention in the Office of the Provost at Stony Brook University, said a student's Regents score is just one factor considered for admission. Class grades, a college essay and a student's extracurricular activities are also part of the equation. If a student has a low Regents score but an above-average class grade, there is a concern about grade inflation, she said.
Still, "I don’t think any is going to be a deciding factor as we do holistic admissions," she said.