The Reality Behind the Regents Diploma

Problem 26, August 2016 Geometry (Common Core) Regents Exam –
Problem 26, August 2016 Geometry (Common Core) Regents Exam –


The New York State Board of Regents lowered the threshold to pass Regents examinations from a 65 to a 50 in order to ‘satisfy diploma requirements’ for the academic years disrupted by the pandemic. As a result, in some scenarios (as described below), high school seniors need to answer only 20 percent of the state’s math assessment and 45 percent of the state’s English assessment correctly to pass. In those scenarios, the following scores would be sufficient to earn a New York State Regents Diploma:

An analysis by a math teacher in New York found that a student could choose C for every answer and still pass the Algebra I exam. And according to the State Education Department’s own scoring key, a student could also leave the entire multiple-choice section blank and still pass the ELA exam. The essay and constructed response section is worth enough points on its own, even though it is still administered on paper and scored by teachers.

Though not advised by the New York State Education Department, many schools are using Regents exam scores to calculate students’ final course grades. While students’ final course grades can be used to appeal their Regents exam scores. Which all begs the question, is there any objective measurement taking place at the high school level?

Answering correctly only 45 percent of the ELA exam and 20 percent of the Algebra I exam hardly confirms literacy and numeracy. Have those skills been confirmed at any prior stage of their schooling experience? According to a report from the state Comptroller’s office, a sampled cohort of high school students graduating during these disrupted years were struggling to achieve reading and math proficiency from 3rd through 8th grade.

Whether a school’s focus should be on college-prep academics, career and technical training, religious education or social-emotional learning is for the parents to decide. The Board of Regents is responsible for ensuring that their high school diploma is a valid receipt of literacy and numeracy – that which is required for the basics of life, regardless of what that diploma is used for.

About those scenarios

For a student to qualify for a Regents diploma under these new guidelines, a special appeal must be made on their behalf.

The school’s teachers, principals and administrators make up the committee responsible for filing these special appeals to the State Education Department. This year, those committees have been granted greater flexibility in determining whether a student with a low Regents exam score is eligible to graduate.

How flexible are these new guidelines? On the basis of coursework, a student can still appeal to receive a diploma with a 50 scaled score on their Regents exam —even if they are failing the course. They would simply need to remediate the coursework, however, remediation is left to the school’s discretion.

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