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New York could make Regents exams optional for students in sweeping overhaul of graduation requirements

Regents exams could become optional for New York students
Regents exams could become optional for New York students 01:59

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Regents exams are intended to show proficiency in English, math, science and other skills, but leaders of the New York State Department of Education say it's time to rethink them. 

New York could make Regents exams optional in a sweeping overhaul of high school graduation requirements. 

"Our students are unique and they're individuals," said Judith Chin, a member of the New York State Board of Regents. 

Currently, passing at least four Regents exams is a mandate in order to graduate from a public high school in New York.

A blue-ribbon commission proposed sweeping changes in high school graduation requirements. The most controversial would make Regents exams optional.

Instead of tests, students could do a presentation or project. 

For example, a student in an automotive tech program, "could demonstrate their learning by rebuilding an engine, for instance, as opposed to taking a test that is asking them to very specific facts. It's not about what you can memorize. It's about what you can do, problems you can solve," said Melinda Person, president of New York State United Teachers. 

Some Regents said the state needs to be very careful about making the exams optional. 

"Regents curriculum is on the chopping block here," said Catherine Collins, another member of the Board of Regents. 

"No amount of good intentions will will a person into success if they haven't been prepared," said Adrian Hale, another Board of Regents member. 

"Every year we graduate young people with Regents diplomas and they go on to higher education institutions and they don't get past the freshman year," said Lester Young, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. 

The reforms would also replace the state's three different diplomas - local, Regents and Regents advanced - with just one. 

Students would still be allowed to earn diploma endorsements, such as "seal of biliteracy" or "mastery in mathematics." 

Regents hope to finalize reforms sometime in 2024. 

The Regents will also consider adding ethics, writing and financial literacy credit requirements in order to earn a diploma. 

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