Spiking coronavirus infections have canceled the state’s January Regents exams for the second consecutive year, Education Department officials announced Tuesday.

The High School Regents Examination Program January 2022 administration canceled next month’s exams, scheduled to take place between Jan. 25 and 28, amid a rising surge of COVID-19 infections across the state and nation.

New coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are expected to continue on an increasing trajectory for the next several weeks as the more contagious omicron variant spreads in communities leading up to the Christmas and New Years holidays.

“New York set a daunting record last week with more COVID-19 cases reported in one day than ever before,” State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said in a statement. “Once again, the January Regents Exams cannot be safely, equitably and fairly administered across the state. We will continue to work with our schools, districts, and stakeholders to ensure they have what they need to provide academic, social and emotional and mental health supports for our students.”

Tuesday’s cancelation applies to all Regents exams, or the state-issued standardized tests taken by New York high school students to test proficiency in specific subjects and will impact state tests for the third year running.

The January 2021 Regents exams were also canceled in November 2020 due to concerns of the spreading coronavirus. Most state exams were also canceled in June 2020 and this past June and August.

The board plans to propose emergency modifications to high-school diploma assessment requirements because of next month’s cancelation for students to earn their degrees with the proper credentials and endorsements, according to the department Tuesday. Under the proposed changes, students who planned to take Regents exams in January will be exempt from the requirements to pass the exam in order to earn a high-school diploma, as long as they meet certain requirements established by the board.

Students who are exempted from the exam due to the cancellation will not be impacted in their eligibility for Honors or Mastery endorsement on their diploma.

“Educators, school staff, communities and families have taken painstaking efforts to ensure a safe and healthy school year,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. said in a statement Tuesday. “Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, the recent acceleration in COVID-19 infections, and continuing upheaval the virus has caused in schools across the state, this decision is the right one. New York’s students will continue to have access to high-quality coursework while allowing districts to prioritize the health and safety of our school communities.”

A decision has not been made about the Regents exams scheduled for June and August 2022, according to the state Education Department.

The June exams are tentatively set for June 1, and June 15 through June 24. The August exams are tentatively slated for Aug. 16 and 17, according to the Education Department’s website.

The board will continue to monitor data on the pandemic and the virus’ impact on schools before making any decisions on other assessments and exams as the state’s daily COVID positivity rate increased to 10.39% Tuesday and 7.88% over a seven-day average, up from an average of 6.29% in three days.

The state broke its record for the highest number of new coronavirus cases for three consecutive days, with at least 23,391 New Yorkers testing positive for the fatal upper respiratory disease Sunday.

New York State United Teachers, the union representing about 600,000 educators statewide, issued a statement in appreciation to the Education Department and board canceling the January Regents.

“Given the unevenness of this school year with the pandemic still ongoing and the acute social-emotional needs of our students, canceling the January Regents exams is the right choice,” according to a statement from New York State United Teachers. “We thank Commissioner Rosa, Chancellor Young and the Board of Regents for recognizing that our educators are still assessing their students, preparing them to receive their diplomas and setting them up for success after graduation without this round of state exams.”

Students must be enrolled in a course that would typically culminate with a January 2022 Regents exam and earn credit for that course of study, complete a make-up program to earn course credit or be prepared to take a required Regents exam to graduate at the end of the first semester to qualify for exemption, according to the department.

Education Trust–New York Executive Director Dia Bryant expressed appreciation for the cancelation, but stressed the need for the state to offer students adequate support as they prepare to post-high school educational opportunities with harmful diploma modifications.

“The cancellation of Regents exams removes one critical way of knowing if our students are college- and career-ready or if they have made up lost academic ground in the past two years,” Bryant said. “The continued use of Regents exemptions raises critical equity issues for students, especially high school seniors. We must ensure that there are supports in place for students as they transition into postsecondary opportunities.

“A March 2021 analysis by The Education Trust–New York found that districts in New York state with the largest shares of students from low-income backgrounds and students of color were more likely to use an exemption to graduate students — signaling that there may continue to be many students who are underprepared for college or the workforce,” she added. “Given the ongoing nature of pandemic, NYSED should act now to reimagine how to administer these critical examinations. An overreliance on the use of exemptions is harmful and graduates too many students into uncertainty.”

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