Regents Exams: Good or Bad?

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This school year has been full of unexpected changes. From having to do school on a computer (something that would’ve shocked us all two years ago) to having barriers on our desks, this school year has been crazy. While we’ve all been trying to figure out the difficulties that COVID-19 has brought, there is one big question mark that’s been floating around in our head this whole year: the Regents. The Regents is the final exam that all students in New York have to take for particular courses. Last year, the exam was cancelled when lockdown occurred. However, the NYS Board of Regents announced that the Regents exams for Living Environment (biology), Algebra I, Earth Science, and English 11 would be the only ones held, but they would be optional. Students can take the Regents, and if they don’t like their score, they can contact the administration and request their score not be put on their transcript. YHS is requiring students to take a local final exam in their classes. With a final exam on top of an optional Regents in some classes, students contemplated whether it was worth taking the Regents. We asked 36 YHS students who are being offered the Regents whether they will be taking the exam or not.

Each of the 36 students had all taken a Regents exam in the past, whether it be Algebra I, Biology, Earth Science, Geometry, or all four of them. Thus, they have all had experience with the exams. There was an exact 50-50 split between the students on whether they were participating in the exam or not; 18 said they were taking the exam, 18 said they were not. Based on their answer to whether or not they were taking the exam, students were asked different questions.

For the students who opted out of the Regents, we posed the simple question of why they weren’t taking the exam. Many students argued that they had no reason to take it since they would be taking a final anyway and that they could still receive their Regents diploma without having taken the exam. Others say that online learning has created a large obstacle in their education. They say that it was hard for them to learn through a computer screen and, thus, they are scared that they’re not prepared to take the Regents. The Regents can also cause added stress for some students, and they are just looking to steer clear of any additional stress from such an odd year. For some students, they also chose to opt out in the particular subject they had been offered because it’s not a subject that they are generally strong in. Out of the 18 children who said they were opting out, 12 said that it was a personal decision and 6 said it was a family decision.

While next school year is still a mystery to us all, some are saying we will return to somewhat of a sense of normalcy. Yet we still don’t know whether the exam will be held. When asked if they would opt out next year given the option, a majority said yes or that it would depend on the circumstances of the year. Some say that they don’t see a point to these standardized exams and the added stress. Others say they would have to see how the school year is going and whether they are confident in their knowledge. Students say that they only would take the exam if there wouldn’t be a local exam being administered or if they wouldn’t be given a regents diploma. Others say there would be nothing that could convince them to take it.

Now that these students aren’t taking the exam, one could question whether or not they would still be motivated in school. Most of these students said not taking the exam wouldn’t affect their motivation. They argue that since they still have to take a final exam, they still have to work hard and be active in class. Some other students said that their motivation has been affected a small amount, but no one said their motivation would be affected greatly. Some say that they may regret their decision because it could improve their grade in the event that they do very well. For the most part these students believe that they will continue to be motivated and that they have made the right decision.

Out of the 36 students, 18 of them said they were taking the exam. Many of the students are taking the exam because they think it will look good to colleges. Since some students aren’t taking the exam, some could argue that they would look better to colleges compared to those who opted out. Others say that it could boost their grade and even if they do bad they can take it off their transcript. Unlike the students who opted out, some of these students feel confident in what they learned this year. They say that they feel prepared for the exam, and they have participated in Regents in the past so this wouldn’t be anything new. Some students just want to see how they do. After a year of hard work, it makes sense for students to be curious if their work paid off. 13 of these 18 said it was a personal choice and 5 said it was a family decision. Most students weren’t pressured into taking the exam by their families.

These 18 students were asked how they felt about the option of being able to opt out of the Regents exam. Almost all the students said they liked that they were given an option because they know some students struggled this year and had a hard time adjusting to this type of learning. Students are looking out for their peers and think being given an option was the right thing to do. These students that are taking the exam for the most part feel prepared for the subject they are taking it in. They say that they feel more prepared in some subjects compared to others. Some think that being in person has prepared them more than being at home. It’s hard for some students to feel fully prepared; learning at home can be difficult no matter what. Most students say that the only way they wouldn’t take the exam is if they weren’t given the ability to have their score taken off their transcript.

Despite taking the exam, many of the students say that it has no effect on their motivation and they would study nonetheless since they are taking a mandatory final. Others say that the Regents have motivated them even more to be vigilant and stay on top of their studies. All of these students believe that they made the right decision. They believe there is no harm in trying and their grade won’t matter since they can exempt it from their transcript.

This has been an unusual school year for us all and it’s no surprise that it has an unexpected ending. The Regents exams have never been optional and, for all we know, they might never be again. Everyone’s view on the Regents exam and whether or not to take it differs, but we can all agree that the 2020-2021 school year has been a crazy adventure we’ll always remember.