Regents Week Canceled and Replaced with In-Person Instruction
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The Board of Regents and New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) announced on January 4 that the annual January high school Regents examinations, which would have been held from January 24 to January 28, were cancelled. In past years, this week, commonly known by students as “Regents week,” only had students attend school on the days and times they had a Regents exam.
In its place, the NYCDOE mandated that all New York City public schools hold classes under a regular schedule and keep track of student attendance. It maintained that school should consist of full days of instruction and under no circumstances should any student be released from instruction during the school week.
This announcement came as a surprise for some Stuyvesant staff members. “The English department was distraught at that announcement—not because we don’t love being in class with [students]—but because that has been a week where traditionally teachers have had time to grade and respond thoughtfully to their students’ work, and the prospect of not having any of those days to do that was a crushing blow,” Assistant Principal of the English Department Eric Grossman said.
In response to the NYCDOE’s announcement, Stuyvesant’s various departments met frequently to decide a course of action. “We met every morning from about Christmas break and there was a lot of information for us to process and a lot of decisions to make. Things were changing each day from the number of students who were out, the number of teachers who were out, and the directions coming from the DOE,” Grossman said.
After deliberating, the Stuyvesant administration decided that no new projects or assignments would be assigned and that no examinations would be given unless they were previously scheduled. “That week was intended to be a week for students to refresh and recharge for the fall semester, to prepare for the spring semester, [and] perhaps to make up some work if they had been out of school or missed classes, and so we wanted to remain true to that intention,” Grossman said.
Assistant Principal of World Language, Art, and Music Francesca McAuliffe echoed this sentiment. “We knew that some students had to quarantine or who were ill during the winter and so we wanted to allow some flexible time during that week for teachers to sharpen skills, to introduce the next term, and also to allow students some time to make up some things or solidify some understandings so that they are really confident going into the next term,” she said.
Different teachers had different approaches to the week based on their respective class’s situation. “Teachers [in the World Language Department] are looking to have their students present projects, potentially see a film, read magazines, [or] just get some of the skills preloaded or ahead outline the course curriculum for the spring term, ” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe, who teaches Spanish I, used the week to help students improve their mastery of Spanish in a variety of ways. “In my first year class, what I’m hoping to do is to do a little more communicative skills, working on conversation, speaking in the target language, [and] maybe exploring more music and poetry. The other things I want to do is that I’m going to look at the final exam and see if there were any areas that students didn’t do as well in parts of the exam so that we can review and go over some things,” she said.
Spanish teacher Anna Montserrat had a similar approach for Regents week. “We are going to watch a movie in the AP [Spanish Language and Culture] class called The Motorcycle Diaries. We are going to talk about the movie, the topics, and maybe [have] some reading comprehension activities talking about the topics in the movie,” she said.
The English department, however, took a different route and opted for teachers to focus on responding and grading student material. “[For most teachers], the classes will be work periods for students and teachers are going to respond to student work because that is instruction. Responding thoughtfully to student work is instruction,” Grossman said.
The math department administered uniform finals for the Algebra II, Algebra II Honors, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus classes remotely through DeltaMath. Other classes have taken take-home final exams.
The reception of this year’s Regents week has been mixed, as some students appreciated its relaxed nature, while others resented having to come to school. “I’d still like for school to be closed during Regents week because the commute can be a burden,” senior Alvi Khan said.
Junior Yusha Aziz echoed Khan’s sentiment, but still enjoyed the relaxed nature of Regents week. “I don’t think it was worth coming into school. We could have had more sleep and done more productive activities instead of being forced to stay in school learning,” he said. “But, though it was a waste of time, it was fun hanging out with people instead of having the pressure of learning.”
Students took different approaches to Regents week, considering the end of the fall semester, with some noting a greater sense of freedom. “I skipped school the entire Regents week, just drove locally with friends while playing Nav on the speaker,” senior Raj Dhanda said.
Given the circumstances and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, many supported having Regents week serve as a time of making up a backlog of work and catching up. “The administration knows that it’s been an unusual semester and that many may have been out during that week,” Grossman said. “It was important for everyone to not create additional work and instead create an opportunity to make up whatever may have been missed.”