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History Regents canceled after Buffalo shootings

HARLEM VALLEY — In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo on Saturday, May 14, by an 18-year-old white gunman accused of killing 10 Black victims at a Tops supermarket, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has canceled the Regents exam in U.S. History and Government (Framework) scheduled for June.

In a letter sent to her colleagues on Tuesday, May 24, NYSED Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa explained the department’s decision. A copy of Rosa’s letter may be found online at www.nysed.gov.

Rosa’s letter said NYSED, in partnership with New York State educators, reviewed all June 2022 Regents exams. While the exams had already been printed and packaged for shipment to schools, experts determined there was content in the Regents exam in U.S. History and Government (Framework) that “has the potential to compound student trauma caused by the recent violence in Buffalo.”

It’s also worth mentioning that this year would be the first time the Regents exam in that specific subject matter, U.S. History and Government (Framework), would have been administered.

“While developed by NYS-certified social studies teachers more than two years ago and field-tested to confirm that the exam’s content is educationally sound, the tragedy in Buffalo has created an unexpected and unintended context for the planned assessment,” said NYSED spokesperson Emily DeSantis. “In the wake of the Buffalo tragedy, it is not appropriate to administer the exam with a question that could compound the grief and hardship faced by our school communities.”

As it’s not possible to change the exams’ content or make modifications to the tests before they’re administered, Rosa explained that NYSED has decided to cancel the exam “to appropriately support our students and their well-being.”

At the June 2022 Board of Regents meeting — which was scheduled for Monday, June 13, and Tuesday, June 14 — Rosa said NYSED will ask the Board of Regents to approve a graduation exemption for students scheduled to take the U.S. History Regents exam.

Due to technical requirements associated with administering a new assessment, she explained the regulatory change the Board of Regents will consider will include exemptions for students who planned to take the exam either this June, this August or this coming January.

The cancelation of the history Regents will of course make ripples across the state, including locally. Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School Principal Tara Grieb posted a notice about the exam’s cancellation on the Pine Plains Central School District’s website, www.ppcsd.org, assuring her students it won’t affect their graduation plans. When asked, she said the move should not have a negative impact on students.

“If anything, it may help some students who may have struggled to pass the exam as they are now exempt,” said Grieb.

In her letter to Stissing Mountain juniors and their families, Grieb said students taking U.S. History will have a local final exam prior to Wednesday, June 15, and all other Regents exams will be administered as planned between June 15 and Thursday, June 23.

“I believe all of the NYS Regents should be canceled,” Webutuck Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani said. “[It’s] difficult to measure how well students have acquired the knowledge expected by the NYS Regents when we should be focusing more so on student mental health and well-being.”

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