Regents policy on makeup exams raises questions - The Buffalo News
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Regents policy on makeup exams raises questions

When cold temperatures prompted dozens of area schools to close this week and forced the cancellation of Regents tests, some parents might have questioned why the state won’t allow makeup exams.

State education officials say it would be too costly to develop extra makeup Regents exams. They view the January exam schedule as a makeup opportunity for students who didn’t pass the exams earlier.

“Regents exams are given three times a year – in June, August and January,” said Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. “We view the January exam administration primarily as a makeup test opportunity.”

Students in school districts that closed this week because of weather will not be able to take the exams until June. Some school officials have said the policy is unfair to students who will have one less shot at passing an exam needed for graduation.

Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, called it an “unacceptable situation.”

“This week, you have students all over New York State who were unable to take the test through no fault of their own,” Ryan wrote in a letter to Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. “And unfortunately, the response from the Board of Regents and Commissioner King has been ‘too bad, so sad.’ ”

Ryan wants King and the state Board of Regents to allow students who missed the exams when their schools closed to take new makeup Regents exams. He also questioned why the state does not have a procedure for the exams to be made up before June.

The state Education Department doesn’t allow the same Regents exams to be given as a makeup because they believe it would give an unfair advantage to the person taking the test at the later date.

It would be “far too costly” to create a bank of makeup Regents exams, Burman said in an emailed response to questions from The Buffalo News. “Remember, these exams are highly secure – and once an exam is given in one location, that same exam cannot be given in another location at a later time or date.”

The Department of Education in 2011 nearly eliminated the January administration of the Regents exams in an effort to save $1.4 million after state legislators allocated less money for testing programs than education officials had requested. The January tests were restored that year with private donations.

“It is a costly and time-consuming endeavor to produce each Regents exam,” Burman said.

But Ryan said the state Education Department’s policy not to provide contingency makeup exams if schools have emergency closures pushes extra costs onto school districts that will have to spend more resources to prepare students again to take the exams in June that they were ready to take this week. “The solution is so easy,” Ryan said. “All you do is, instead of making three exams, you make four.”

Burman also noted that schools across the state face emergency closures at different times.

“While it may snow on one day in Buffalo, it may snow the following day in Rochester, and the next in Watertown, etc. – making it impossible to have enough backup exams to cover every district impacted by inclement weather throughout the entire state,” Burman said.

Many school districts in Erie and Niagara counties closed Tuesday because of the cold, and some were also closed Monday and Wednesday because of weather. In Buffalo, where high school students take public transportation, those scheduled to take Regents exams were required to show up despite the fact that classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday.

During a news briefing Thursday morning, Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said that about 75 percent of the students who were expected showed up for the first day of testing.

The January exams are taken by far fewer students than those in June, but school administrators have said many who take the tests in January are those who have previously struggled to pass the exams. Other students take the exams in January in order to raise their grades.

There are more than four times as many Regents exams taken by students during a typical June exam period, compared with a typical January exam period, according to the Department of Education.

News Staff Reporter Tiffany Lankes contributed to this report. email:

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