BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Tuesday, New York’s State of Education Department passed a proposal to help students pass their final exams this year and today parents and community members came together at Bethesda World Harvest International Church.

“What is the value of a regents diploma if I get the diploma whether I pass the regents exam or not?” Samuel Radford said.

According to the New York Equity Coalition, Buffalo Schools had their highest graduating rate last year, but they say only a percentage of them were ready for college and careers. If this proposal turns permanent, they’re concerned this will cover-up of an education system that was broken before COVID.

“At this point we are saying, this is not compassion for our children. Compassion for our children, is to ensure that they can read and write on grade level and that they graduate college and career ready,” said Bishop Michael Badger, who said this is a bigger problem in city schools than suburban schools.

“We have experience, educators in this community who know how to do it right.” said Majority Crystal People-Stokes, “I’m not saying we won’t experience that in the future, but we don’t need the state education department saying the lower the standards in order to get better data.”

According to the President of the Erie Niagara Superintendents Association, the discussion of changing what a Regent’s Diploma has been in the works for decades.

“If the education of children in public schools is going to remain a powerful force for good in the life of young people,” said Michael Cornell, “We might have to accept some change.”

He says there will still be a long way to go, to ensure every student gets the education they need to succeed.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.