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If teachers sign off on student coursework, Regents exams in June waived

Betty A. Rosa, chancellor of the state's Board

Betty A. Rosa, chancellor of the state's Board of Regents, described the testing exemptions as a measure putting first priority on students' and teachers' health and safety. Credit: Hans Pennink

Students scheduled to take June Regents exams, now canceled due to the coronavirus crisis, will be excused from that testing requirement under a waiver announced Tuesday by the state Education Department in Albany.

Instead, these students will be granted credit toward graduation if teachers approve their coursework this term in required subjects such as English, algebra and science, department officials said. The statewide exemption from exams applies to hundreds of thousands of students, ranging from 12th-graders on the verge of graduation to seventh-graders enrolled in their first Regents-level courses.

The testing waivers follow Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's directive Monday that extended closures of schools in the state through at least April 29. The closings, which began last month, had left many local educators doubtful that students could be adequately prepared for state exams through online and off-site instruction alone.

Betty A. Rosa, chancellor of the state’s Board of Regents, characterized the testing exemptions as putting first priority on students’ and teachers’ health and safety.

“In times of crisis, difficult decisions must be made and the Board of Regents knows these are ultimately the right ones for New York’s students,” said Rosa, whose board sets much of the state’s education policy.

The announcement Tuesday, coming near the estimated peak of the pandemic, acknowledged “uncertainty” over when classroom instruction will resume. Also announced was a one-year delay, until 2022 or 2023, of planned rollouts of new state tests for the elementary and middle grades in English, math and science.

All the new tests are based on a revised set of "Next Generation" standards. Those guidelines were drafted at the state level to replace controversial "Common Core" standards introduced in the 2011-12 school year.

Robert Lowry, a deputy director of the New York State Council of School School Superintendents, praised the education department's latest guidelines, saying he found them "very clear and helpful." In particular, Lowry cited a Question & Answer paper accompanying the guidelines that provided detailed answers to 40 common issues raised by administrators.

One serious issue, Lowry said, was the level of academic "preparedness" that students will bring into school next fall, after missing weeks and even months of school this term. That, he noted, posed a particular problem, for students following a sequence of courses — for example moving up from an algebra course this term to a geometry class in the fall.

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