By Alana Farkas
Why do we come to school? Are we eager to obtain valuable knowledge necessary for a successful future? Maybe. Or do we merely show up every morning because, well, it is the law?
What about teachers? Why do they teach? I have had teachers whose intentions are to expand our horizons and offer the gift of knowledge. I have also had teachers who strictly abide to only the guidelines of the common core.
No method is right or wrong. Each individual holds his or her own reasons for being here at South High. But every person here has at least one common incentive for coming to school: the Regents Examinations.
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) developed the Regents in 1866 in order to measure student achievement. Students are expected to complete their preliminary studies and pass the Regents in those subjects. Regents passage in core subjects is required for both graduation and college acceptance.
Today, however, the purpose for the Regents has shifted more heavily towards the teachers than the students. In 2011, the Board of Regents approved a new rule that teachers be evaluated based on their students’ standardized test scores.
According to New York Times author Sharon Otterman, “state standardized tests could be used for up to 40 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation.” Therefore, students’ Regents grades are a reflection on the teacher and his or her ability to teach.
This means that teachers have an obligation to teach their students to the Regents standards. If students do not pass their examinations, the burden is placed on the teacher. A student can always retake the exam, but a teacher cannot always be reevaluated.
The United States grants teachers tenure, a form of job protection. Therefore, in some areas of New York where teachers may not be teaching up to their required standards, the Regents are necessary. They ultimately measure teachers’ performance and ensure they are teaching up to par.
But in places like Great Neck, where many exceptional teachers go above and beyond United States standards to teach their students, the Regents are detrimental.
The high emphasis on Regents examination hurts both the students and the teachers overall. How many classes have you taken that only focused on the Regents material? How many times have you heard the phrase, “This won’t be on the Regents so you don’t need to know it”?
I have asked complicated questions in class; sometimes the teacher will not elaborate because my question will not be tested on the Regents.
Some teachers may feel pressured to only focus on Regents core because there may not be enough time in the year to teach extra material—and understandably so. In a school with both advanced students and advanced teachers, the Regents are holding us back.
The NYSED is beginning to eliminate certain required Regents for multiple reasons, one of these being state budget cuts. However, the NYSED should decrease the number of Regents required for student graduation.
The effects of a decrease in required Regents examinations may differ depending on the school and even the teacher. Though decreasing the number of Regents may not yield positive feedback from all schools, it will definitely allow teachers to expand the scope of learning in the classroom.
Why come to school? Why take the Regents? Do you want to expand your knowledge beyond that of the average American student? Or do you just take the Regents because, well, it is the law?