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Board Approves Recommendations on Regents Testing Policy

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Atlanta — June 12, 2007

The Regents’ Test – one of the “rites of passage” for students attending Georgia’s Public colleges and universities – will continue to serve as a key measure of the reading and writing skills of graduates. But, the Board of Regents today adopted revised policies that will enable early identification and support for students who may be at risk for failing the Test.

“The intent of these revisions is to continue to fulfill one of the stated goals in our Regents Policy Manual – that students who obtain bachelor’s degrees from our colleges and universities possess certain basic skills in reading and writing,” said Interim Chief Academic Officer Beheruz N. Sethna in a presentation to the board.

Historically, high scores on the SAT have been used as a means of exempting students from having to take the Regents’ Test. But, as part of the policy revisions, University System of Georgia (USG) officials will use scores from the SAT or ACT and will also work with the Georgia Department of Education to include a review of scores from the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) to predict which incoming students may have difficulty with or be at risk for failing the Regents’ Test. These students will be identified and given the Regents’ Test early. Further, when students have trouble passing the Test after several attempts, more individualized help will be provided.

Over the past two years, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents has been evaluating the effectiveness of the Regents’ Test, which was first required in 1973. The skills in reading and writing, which the Regents’ Test assesses, must be met by all USG graduates. Currently, if a student has not demonstrated mastery of those skills by the time he or she has completed 45 credit hours of college, additional courses must be taken to improve writing and college-level reading.

The latest evaluation of the Test identified the need to implement programs that identify students who may be at risk of not meeting the Regents’ Test requirement at an earlier point than the current 45-hour mark; either before students begin classes or early in their first year of enrollment.

“Our evaluation determined that students presenting lower SAT and GHSGT scores could be at risk of failing the Regents Test,” Sethna said. High scores on the SAT are now routinely used to exempt students from taking the Regents Test. “We see that lower scores on the SAT and the GHSGT appear to indicate students who need help early on,” he said.

Those students whose test scores indicate a higher likelihood of failure on the Regents’ Test would be given assistance early in their college experience to increase the likelihood that they are able to eventually pass. “We’re not going to wait until students fail the test several times to become involved in helping them ultimately succeed,” said Sethna.

Another positive outcome of the policy revision may be an improvement in students’ on-time graduation rates, according to Sethna. Twenty five percent of students drop out by the sophomore year – before taking the Regents’ Test. “If we can get these students to take the Regents’ Test or skills courses in the freshman year prior to completing core courses, we will have more students who receive early diagnosis and help” said Sethna. “Over time, we believe, these changes can help improve our on-time graduation rates.”

Approximately 40 percent of students entering the University System have an SAT critical reading score of 510 or above and thus are exempt from taking the Regents’ Reading Test. Of those who must take the Regents’ Reading Test, 75 percent pass on the first attempt. Likewise, 40 percent of incoming USG students have an SAT writing score of 560 or above and are thus exempt from taking the Regents’ Writing Test. Of those who must take this test, 85 percent pass on the first attempt.

The key changes approved today and from the board’s March meeting include:

  • The timing and reporting of testing will be modified to test entering freshmen and to report Regents’ Test pass rates at 45 hours.
  • Institution officials may recommend a limited number of students for alternative testing methods. These would be those who have been diagnosed with conditions that may cause them to fail the Regents’ Test repeatedly.
  • Students who fail the Regents’ Test multiple times will receive more individualized attention.
  • The System will now utilize both the Georgia High School Graduation Test and SAT scores to provide another assessment measure for students entering the University System.

The approved changes will go into effect in the 2008-2009 academic year or earlier. Looking ahead, once the Board approves a planned review and revision of the System’s core curriculum, the entire Regents’ Testing program will be again analyzed to determine what additional changes are needed to bring it in alignment with expectations of student learning outcomes.

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