The following are letters written by students from a high school in the Hudson Valley. This is very good school district, with a strong sense of community. The graduation rate is 93% (keep in mind graduation rate counts only those who graduate in 4 years). This year, special education students no longer have the Regents Competency Tests (RCTs) as a safety net if they are unable to pass the Regents. Instead, they have to pass a math, science, US History, Global History & Geography and English Language Arts Regents exam with a 55 (or borrow points if one grade is high enough to loan to another exam). These tests are meant to be challenging, which makes them unfair for students with many different learning disabilities. These students have taken some of the these exams 3, 4, 5 or more times and are now seniors. Some made it and others are ready to give up and drop out of school. This is going on in high schools across the state, but their needs are being disregarded in the push to make everyone “college and career ready”. No child left behind? We are leaving these children with no opportunities.
“In my journey through high school, I learned that it’s not all about how many friends you have or how fit you are, its all about how you present yourself in the real world. You have to find a job to make money. Each one of us have been raised differently from another. We all have our strengths and weakness, so when you take hundreds of kids and give them all the same test with the same limits and expectations some will fail; that is the fact. I think students with limitations deserve a safety net. That’s where RCT came in, but without it kids will keep failing and throughout the years they will get frustrated and drop out. I dont want my fellow students to feel inferior just because they were dealt a bad hand.”
“I’m a senior at XXXXXX High School. I had taken the regents many times because I had failed some. It took me a lot of determination and time to be able to get through all of the regents. This year I’m on track to graduate because I had the option to take the RCT. The RCT was a test that I took to help me pass one of my math regents. The test was easier for me to be able to read, but it was the same difficulty as the algebra one math regents.”
“I think that all special education students should be eligible to take these RCT’s because the common core focuses on reading and math mostly and that’s where most special education kid’s have the most trouble.”
“I am a senior at XXXXXXX High School.I passed all of my regions exams, though it did take a while. For example, for the ELA regents I spent my own summer and money for tutoring for this test. It took me two tries. For my algebra regents, living environment, global, and us history, I had to drop everything and studied as hard as I could then barely passed my first time around on all of those exams. What i would like to happen is to bring back the RCTs or at least make the regents easier for the special education kids. Why were the RCTs taken away from my graduating class? I also am a BOCES student. I take urban forestry and my class is even getting tested a lot there. What’s the point? In my opinion I believe what we need is less demanding testing.”
“I am a senior in high school and have taken all the required exams and have passed, but not without major time and stress put in to it. I failed my US History Regents about four times before I passed and I spent a year preparing for my retake. I would have failed my Global Regents if it wasn’t for my IEP, because I got a 55 or above on all other exams. My Global grade was a 46. I passed because it was above a 45 and I had earned above a 65 on another exam. I have found the past exams have been very hard to read and understand, I don’t understand most of what I read when taking these exams.”
“RCTs would have helped me and will help many other kids if it is brought back.”
“I think that we should get the RCT back because it would be a lot easier to pass. I have not been able to pass one regents exam and I’m not graduating because of it. I pass all of my classes and made it this far, but I can’t go on and graduate because I can’t pass the regents and it gets me really frustrated. Its also a lot of pressure on me to have to take all of these tests. I have always struggled with taking tests and I don’t think its fair that its required to graduate when it never used to be.”
“I believe that the state should bring back the RCT’S or tests similar to them.”
“I am a senior at XXXXXX high school and I’m lucky that I passed all of my regents. It wasn’t easy for me to take all five regents. I had support from my family, friends and all of my teachers. I put in a lot work and a lot of extra hours for me to pass all of my regents. I had to take the English and Living Environment Regents three times and the Integrated Algebra Regents two times. I believe requiring all students to pass these difficult test is unfair and unrealistic.”
“I am a student at XXXXXXX High School and it’s my senior year. Teachers are bringing to our attention that the class of 2015 is the first class that is not allowed to take the RCT’s. Students that have taken it before, say that its easier to understand than the regular regents. Not only is it easier to understand, but also it takes off the pressure of having to sit through so many regent’s if you end up failing it the first time. I myself have struggled with the US History Regents five times and will be taking it a sixth time in January. The writing part is not too difficult, but when it comes to the way the multiple choice questions are worded, its a little confusing. If I don’t pass the US History Regents again I will not be graduating. Not being able to graduate because of one regents exams irritates me very much and also my mom. There are many kids who will not pass their exams and end up dropping out. They don’t go to college and end up living an unhappy life working at a job that they do not like.”
“The RCT’s should be brought back so that students like me won’t have to say in high school longer than needed. Also so we don’t end up dropping out.”
These students have sent their letters to the Regents, the state elected officials, their school administrators and Governor Cuomo. If you are a special education high school teacher with a similar set of students, I encourage you to share this with them and to have them do the same.