New York is considering making some changes to graduation requirements for high school students, and we see no harm in exploring the idea, because some small, targeted changes could make the system work better for more students.
Students in New York are required to pass a minimum number of Regents exams to obtain a diploma, but there is growing concern that the state has put too much emphasis on the hours-long exit exams. In particular, recent numbers show that while nearly 90 percent of white students statewide are graduating in four years, the percentage drops to about 70 percent for black and Hispanic students, leading to a renewed consideration for allowing projects or community activities to serve as evidence of preparedness for graduation.
Nobody is suggesting scrapping testing entirely. And nothing is going to happen overnight. The Board of Regents is putting together a commission of educators, parents, students and others to look into the issue and report back in the fall of 2020 with recommendations on alternatives to measuring proficiency.
Regents are part of the larger conversation regarding testing in general. Tests are designed to be a standard measure of whether students have actually learned the material, and it's not too much to ask that students graduating from high school in New York state walk away with basic reading, writing, history and math skills.
So while it would be a mistake to water down graduation requirements to the point that a high school diploma in New York carries less weight than it once did, there is credence to the belief that a student's overall grades, attendance, extracurricular activities and community involvement are equally strong indicators that a student will succeed in college or in the workplace.
One of the benefits of testing is the collection of data to track how students are doing. And because that data is showing that some students appear to be at a disadvantage, it makes sense to investigate what might be done to help them succeed.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.