The New York State Board of Regents is considering making the Regents Global History and Geography exam optional to make way for students pursuing technical education and hard sciences.
This change has the potential to add two additional pathways to graduation. The first would assist students interested in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and the second helps students with a strong interest in the sciences, according to James Tallon, a member of the New York Board of Regents.
The traditional path, which requires a score of 65 or higher in English, algebra, global history, U.S. history and science, will remain untouched.
The Board of Regents has been discussing the advancement of technical education in New York high schools for at least the past three years, according to Tallon. These discussions resulted from concern over lower graduation rates in less-privileged school districts.
“The underlying motivation is that you have persistent problems with graduation rates where students have economic disadvantages,” Tallon said.
New York State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo of the 126th district, which encompasses Binghamton University, is the chair of the legislative commission on science and technology.
Lupardo said she thinks that parts of the proposal are beneficial to students.
“CTE provides students with a pathway to post-secondary education and careers by exposing them to technical education and practical problem solving,” she wrote in an email. “I think this would certainly help local schools, like the Binghamton City School District, improve their graduation rates.”
Students from high schools with technical programs generally receive higher grades in the Regents exams than other schools, Tallon said.
S.G. Grant, dean of Binghamton University’s Graduate School of Education, whose past research includes state curriculum and standardized tests, said that though tests are not a good determinant of what kids actually know, making an exam optional raises doubts about the future of a course.
“Less testing is, I think, a good thing,” Grant said. “But what’s really clear now is that if a course isn’t tested, its importance declined substantially … To say that it can be optional for those grades is really just saying you don’t have to do it, and schools will drop it, frankly. I think that would be bad.”
Grant also expressed concern over the future of students who would choose the two new focuses.
Grant said that even if the Regents proposal were to pass, the education of teachers would be unlikely to change. He added that given the costs of technical education, BU’s school of education would not invest in that area.
“The career and technical areas, we don’t have programs in that area anyway, but most of the SUNY schools don’t,” Grant said. “I believe that only one or two of the SUNY schools do that kind of training.”
Though Lupardo spoke positively about some aspects of the legislation, she also expressed concerns about the elimination of the tests.
“In order to compete in the global economy, it’s critical to have an understanding of world history and geography regardless of career path,” Lupardo said.
The Board of Regents is still discussing the exact extent of the changes and, according to Tallon, will likely make a decision in June or July.
If passed, the proposition will go into effect in fall 2014.