Cancel the 2021 Regents Examinations
Cancel the 2021 Regents Examinations
We are currently surviving a pandemic; our lives are challenging on the best of days and terrible on the worst days. We are living through a world health crisis, doing everything we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. On top of this, we are going to work and school. As a result, we are all experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. It is time to lower the bar of expectations from the NYS Board of Regents for all parties involved in this endeavor of education. We need the state of New York to tell us that Regents Examinations are cancelled and that districts can determine their own final assessments based on what materials and concepts the teachers and students will be capable of covering in these extreme conditions. And we need New York to announce it right away this fall, not later, in the spring. If students pass locally-made assessments as well as passing the course, they should be granted Regents credit for the course.
Picture this: In order to limit exposure to COVID-19, schools have student populations split so that half of them are in the building at a time. Teachers are wearing masks all day while trying to make themselves heard during class. They are teaching to students in the room with them, and at the same time teaching to students who are attending class remotely. They are frantically learning how to utilize technology and problem-solve when audio stops working, when meet links have expired inexplicably, when cameras don't work or the remote-learning students cannot see video of what is being shared online with them. Classes are spread throughout the building, some in the gymnasiums, some in different parts of the auditorium. Teachers are working from early in the morning until late at night to re-invent what they have to teach in order for students to learn in a completely different way. They are barely keeping up from day to day.
Students are in the building two days a week wearing masks, then are responsible for connecting to class remotely the other three days. Some have poor or intermittent connections to the internet, even with additional assistance from the district providing hotspots. At home many are also caring for younger siblings who only attend school twice a week. The older siblings balance babysitting at the same time as attending classes remotely. Every student has been given a Chromebook, some of which were built in a desperate hurry from the IT department, because suddenly all students from the 3rd grade to 12th needed Chromebooks, and manufacturing had slowed significantly due to COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, students have many problems with malfunctions in the Chromebooks. The IT department is doing the best it can in impossible circumstances, but the students are feeling the additional pressure and worry that come with not being able to attend class consistently, complete assignments easily, or seek help from teachers easily, because of technological problems. In addition, they are not allowed to simply walk to see their teachers when they need help understanding an assignment and they are in the building, because movement is restricted due to COVID prevention practices. With all the limitations, learning of material is occurring at half the rate of a normal school year.
At home, parents are working incredibly hard to help their children be successful at school. They are dealing with trying to check on their progress with assignments, to troubleshoot internet connection problems and Chromebook malfunctions, all while working and caring for their families and homes. They are trying to ensure the emotional and mental well-being of their children, minimize nervousness and apprehension that all are feeling, and help them to be successful in their educational goals. This is in addition to protection of their family’s health.
Parents, students, teachers, and administrators are all frantically trying to do what we can to continue our children's education, but we are overwhelmed. We are hanging by a thread. New York State needs to quickly make an announcement cancelling Regents Exams, so that students, teachers, and administrators have one less thing to panic about this year. We will still continue teaching and learning; but will not be chained to standardized tests, which mentally and emotionally will do more harm than good. They are already taking a toll on the emotional health of all involved, because there is constant pressure felt to try to get the students in the building more to make sure everything on the tests can be covered. Teachers are pressured to move faster than is possible, and students are pushed to do more work than they can do. Being successful educationally this year means thinking outside of the box. Potentially it could also save money for the state in not producing the tests this year. COVID-19 is NOT going to disappear by winter, and everything will NOT return to normal by Christmas, so let us set expectations based on what is reasonable. Governor Cuomo, New York State Legislators, and Board of Regents, show your citizens that you understand our struggles and will do what is needed to ensure our well-being.