But the 15 document-related questions are ludicrously easy. The documents include some written passages, but are mostly political cartoons and photographs. Several concern the women’s suffrage movement, such as a photograph of a suffragists’ parade showing women carrying various signs containing the word “suffrage.” The exam question asks, “What was a goal of the women shown in these photographs?” Another photo shows a White House picketer with a banner reading, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” The exam asks the student to state “one method being used by women to achieve their goal.” A third document is a reproduction of a Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association poster listing “Twelve Reasons Why Women Should Vote.” All of the reasons on the poster begin with the word “because”: “Because laws affect women as much as men,” for example. The Regents question reads: “What were two arguments suffragists used in this 1915 flier in support of their goal?” To get full credit, all the student has to do is copy two of the reasons from the poster! Other photographs show 1960s civil rights sit-ins. One question: “Identify one method used by these civil rights activists to achieve their goals.” Another question asks the student to name one goal of the activists. And so on.And then there are the adjustments:
Once teachers have marked the exams, they use a chart created by the state to convert the raw score into a final grade. The extraordinary adjustment built into the chart makes it possible to get only 20 of the 50 multiple-choice questions right and pass the Regents. It’s also possible to complete only one of the two essays and pass. The examiners have created a fail-proof test that measures nothing beyond basic reading and writing competence. It wouldn’t be difficult to train a sixth-grade class that can read and write at grade level to pass the test.