For Equity's Sake, Cancel Regent Exams NOW & Ask USDOE for Waiver for 3rd-8th Grade State Tests

NYS Education Commissioner Dr. Betty Rosa & NYS Board of Regents

Please sign this petition calling on Commissioner Dr. Betty Rosa and the NYS Board of Regents announce the IMMEDIATE cancellation of the June 2021 NYS Regents exams and to apply for a waiver from the US Department of Education for the 3-8th grade annual state testing.

To: NYS Education Commissioner Dr. Betty Rosa & NYS Board of Regents
From: [Your Name]

Dear Commissioner Dr. Rosa and the Board of Regents:

We urge you to immediately announce the cancellation of the June 2021 Regent exams and request a waiver for the 3rd-8th grade state tests from the US Secretary of Education.

As school districts progress through this harrowing school year, one fact is indisputable: inequities are more pronounced than ever before in our communities and in our schools. While a small number of students have attended in-person classes with live instruction since September, the majority have fluctuated between remote, hybrid, in-person, intermittent school closures, illness, and death, while others have yet to receive even a single live instructor. Even more alarming is the number of students who haven’t stepped into a school building and yet have no access to a device or Wi-Fi. Most parents and educators agree: living through this pandemic has resulted in widespread trauma, affecting nearly every one of our children.

Yet the current plan of education officials at the state and national level is to administer high stakes 3rd-8th grade state assessments, 4th and 8th grade science exams, alternate assessments, NYSESLAT and high school Regents exams this spring. The Regents exams will determine students’ eligibility to graduate, as well as count towards their yearly GPA in many cases. During a time when children need empathy, trauma-informed instruction, a focus on mental health and social/emotional learning, educators are gearing up instead for the testing season.

While students struggle from the loss of family members, illness, lack of social interaction and engaging instruction, elementary and middle school students are being told to focus on the upcoming state exams and high school students on Regents exams which will have a profound effect on their future prospects. As other states continue to remove restrictive barriers to students earning a high school diploma, the most basic requirement for a successful adult life, New York state has held fast to its high stakes testing graduation requirements, blocking many students who have successfully completed twelve years of coursework from receiving this important credential. Children as young as eight years old will be subjected to test prep and drills. Educators doing their best to teach in absolutely untenable situations will have to worry how these results will affect their careers and school ratings.

Administering assessments this year would also require online testing for the millions of students who are learning at home, requiring surveillance spyware to be installed on their computers, which have been shown to use unreliable and discriminatory algorithms to detect cheating. Alternatively, they will be crowded into schools without the resources to ensure their safety. All for the sake of tests that are highly correlated with economic, language and disability status, while failing to provide useful diagnostic information to help teachers improve and target instruction.

This should not be a difficult decision, nor should the decision be held off until the last few weeks before tests are scheduled. The damage is occurring right now. The longer the delay, the deeper into testing season we go, the less our educators will be able to focus on attempting to repair the damage done this year and on what really matters for our children’s emotional health and engagement in learning.

We therefore call on the NY Board of Regents and State Education Department to apply for a waiver for 3-8th grade testing and to announce the immediate cancellation of the June 2021 Regents exams, while eliminating them as graduation requirements, as was done last year.