Easing the path to graduation

Citing the pandemic, the state Board of Regents will consider appeals to pass students who score as low as 50 on final exams

The New York State Education Department has lowered the academic bar for graduating students again this year. 

Last week, the Board of Regents approved a temporary policy that broadens the scope in which students are able to appeal and graduate despite failing scores on required Regents exams. 

This is the third consecutive year the Board has made changes involving Regents exam requirements for graduation, citing the ongoing impacts and “varied teaching and learning conditions” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, students were required to earn a score of 65 or higher on at least four Regents exams in core subjects to graduate. They were able to appeal their scores on two of those if they scored between a 60 and 64, but only after two failed attempts at the exam. 

Students also had to meet other requirements for an appeal to be granted, such as passing the local course, receiving additional academic support, and submitting a recommendation for the appeal from a teacher.

Now, students taking the upcoming Regents Exams can appeal scores between 50 and 64. The only other requirement is they pass the local course. 

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Regents exams were canceled in 2020 after schools closed statewide due to the pandemic. Students only had to earn a passing grade in their Regents courses to earn exam credit. 

Graduation rates for the 2019-20 school year grew statewide by 1.4 percent to 84.8 percent. In Buffalo, they jumped 11.6 percent to 76.3 percent.

In the following school year, the state dropped all but four exams mandated by the federal government, and allowed students to skip them and still earn credit if they passed the course during the school year. 

Graduation rates for the 2020-21 school year grew 1.3 percent statewide to 86.1 percent.

Poor attendance poses a challenge for a number of high school seniors in Buffalo. A year ago, nearly one in two seniors — 42.5 percent — missed class at least once a week. Only 30.8 percent had satisfactory attendance rates. Studies show a link between attendance and academic achievement.