According to the New York City Department of Education (DOE), “Students graduating with at least a score of 75 on English Regents and 80 on Math Regents” are deemed ready to pursue college and career paths. It has become increasingly apparent that scoring adequately on these tests is not enough to meet the preparation students need for success beyond high school. Both, members of the public and elected officials, within the DOE, are starting to address additional preparation needed for young people transitioning into the real world after high school, including more work readiness programs and training focused on real world skills.
I strongly feel that the role Regents exams play in New York high schools needs to change. Students’ academic potential and future should not be defined by their scoring on a one-time series of tests. As students transition from high school to adulthood, in the real world, these results become almost completely irrelevant in one’s career endeavors, and may only be looked at when applying to college and/or continuing one’s education.
Many of my peers and I feel as though we lacked forms of work readiness during our academic career–there is an overall recognition that more workforce-focused preparation would have strongly benefited us. Providing these opportunities for young people to gain experience and knowledge for their future careers is more crucial than the regents exams as a whole. Every student has their own path after high school:some may choose to go to college; some may take a break from school, and some may find employment after high school because it suits their needs best. College is not for everyone, and all individuals should feel confident in their post graduation plans. This is why career readiness programs and resources need to be incorporated into every high school in New York, including paid internships, workshops focusing on building resumes, soft and technical skills, certification programs, financial literacy, and more. Also, training surrounding both broad and specific real world scenarios will be incredibly beneficial. For example, teaching students about the relationship between mental health and the workforce, how they can adequately care for themselves and use coping skills in order to put their best foot forward career wise. Students should also be taught about more specific life skills, such as how to do your taxes and what to do if you get into a car accident, etc.
Based on my experience, as well as being surrounded by my friends and family who have also grown up within the New York state school system, the regents exams did us more harm than good. The state focuses heavily on how students perform on the regents, that the real tools and opportunities needed for post-graduate success of youth become neglected. Every student deserves to feel confident and ready for life after high school, regardless of a test score.
Isabela Dempsey is a part of Young Invincible’s 2021 New York Mayor’s Fellow Program.