Although Regents exam week is not scheduled to begin until Jan. 25, thousands of students across the state will be sitting down to take the English Regents exam this morning.
In a nutshell, that's the end result of the state's decision to change the format of the English exam.
For more than a decade, the exam has been given in two separate three-hour sessions over two days, for a total of six hours. Three times, bad weather caused problems for students who were able to take one part of the exam, but not the other; they had to wait until the next time the exam was given.
New York City and other districts have asked the state repeatedly to revamp the exam to make it a single-day test.
That's what the state is trying to do.
Today's three-hour exam will compare to the old six-hour exam like this:
- 25 multiple-choice questions, vs. 26 on the old exam
- One essay question, vs. four on the old exam
- Two "constructed response" (short answer) questions, vs. none on the old exam.
Because the test is new, apparently, and because the state is trying harder to align the curriculum from elementary through college-readiness, officials want extra time to review the results. Part of the review process is also intended to ensure that the shorter exam is still just as rigorous as the old exam. Schools have to score the tests this afternoon and ship them to a state vendor by Wednesday to begin the review process.
Some schools have complained that by scheduling this exam outside of exam week, students will be at a disadvantage. Many schools don't hold class during exam week, so that students can concentrate better on the tests. Because the English exam is being given while classes will be in session, some teachers and school officials say it will be nearly impossible to provide students with a distraction-free environment -- while students are taking the test, bells will ring to signal class changes; other students will be passing through the halls; and the general commotion of a school day will be hard to contain.
State officials say this will be the only time that the English exam will be administered early, prior to the scheduled exam week.
- Mary Pasciak