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The January Regents

Scantron[Editor’s note: Ms. Socrates is a second-year science teacher in a high school in Brooklyn. She blogs at Teacher’s Diary where this post originally appeared.]

The January Regents exams are being administered this week. When I first heard that New York was considering nixing the January Regents, I was dead-set against it. I felt that students should be given every opportunity to make up the exams they failed in the past — I figured the more chances they had, the more likely they would be to pass.

However, since this is now the second January Regents week I will experience, I am becoming more ambivalent about the whole affair. Last June, I saw 90% of my students fail the Regents. They have not come to me for extra help since then and I am fairly sure that very few of them have studied on their own. Some students came to me this week asking for help to prepare them and I asked them whether they had been studying. When they said no, I asked them why they thought that somehow in the past six months they had gained more earth science knowledge than in the previous nine months they were taking my course. When they had no response, I recommended that they not take the test, that they start coming to Regents prep and take the test in June.

I think most teachers would agree that — barring illness or a significant change in behavior — a student will likely score highest on a Regents if he or she takes the test immediately after completing a given course. Waiting another six or 12 months only allows the students to forget more of the material, lowering their chances of passing. It looks bad for both teacher and student to have multiple failing grades on the test. So why offer the January Regents?

I have one student who has been coming consistently for prep.

I have convinced my administration that it is worth it to administer the test for this one student because he has worked hard and I genuinely think he has a good chance of passing the test. That means he will have fewer Regents to take in June, he will feel successful and be one step closer to graduation. To me, that makes the January Regents worth it, despite the fact that it interrupts the flow of class, gives most kids a week’s vacation from school and creates a lot of headaches for administrators and teachers.

Ideally, students would pass the Regents the first time around, but let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes. Some of us more than others. Regardless of the hassle it creates, I think overall the January Regents are a good investment, though I can see the argument for getting rid of them.

I’d be interested to hear what others have to say about the January Regents.