Buffalo News Article
- Subject: Buffalo News Article
- From: Don Henning <dr_henning@MYREALBOX.COM>
- Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 00:32:50 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Recent article in the Buffalo News. "Regents requirements to remain largely intact, commissioner says ". Bill Cala is quoted in this article.
Regents requirements to remain largely intact, commissioner says
By PETER SIMON
News Staff Reporter
Richard P. Mills says watering down the state's new graduation requirements "would be wrong."
Despite growing discontent among school officials, State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills said here Wednesday that New York's Regents graduation requirements will remain largely intact and will be successfully met by an overwhelming majority of students.
Watering the standards down would allow students to graduate without the skills needed in college or on the job, and would doom large numbers of poor and minority students to inferior educations, Mills said in an interview with Buffalo News reporters and editorial writers.
"That would take the heat off schools, take the heat off me and take the heat off the Board of Regents, but it would be wrong," he said. "I don't think that anyone ever before said that we're going to educate all of our kids to meet the needs of citizenship, jobs and all the other responsibilities of adult life. But we're very close to bringing that off."
The New York State School Boards Association - a traditionally staunch supporter of the standards - last month approved a resolution by a vote of 164-153 to seek legislation allowing individual school districts to re-establish local, non-Regents diplomas geared to the abilities, talents and aspirations of their students.
William C. Cala, superintendent of the Fairport Central School District, said Wednesday that Mills is ignoring the resolution, which originated in Fairport, a suburb of Rochester.
"No matter what happens in the field, they don't listen," Cala said. "Apparently there's a hearing problem. (Mills) completely ignores all the damage that is being done."
Many rural and urban districts - including Buffalo - are concerned that large numbers of students will fall short of the Regents standards and fail to graduate.
Some higher-performing suburban districts feel the standards limit the flexibility of both students and teachers.
"There now needs to be an adaptable, reasonable, flexible approach," Orchard Park Superintendent Charles L. Stoddart said last month.
Mills, in Buffalo to attend several teacher recruitment sessions with Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett and Regent Arnold B. Gardner, said those claims are based on fears and not facts.
"That has not been the picture," he said. "At each stage of this long campaign, it's been a new set of objections. Change is not welcome to anyone."
The standards require students to pass Regents exams in math, English, global studies, American history and science in order to graduate.
Mills said those requirements have raised test scores, improved teaching, focused greater attention on individual students and made it easier for the public to evaluate the quality of schools.
At the same time, Mills acknowledged that some students will fall short of the standards and that adjustments might be in order.
"Some kids are going to have a problem, and we have to do something about that," he said. "We can't drive the system to failure, and we haven't. But we cannot adjust the central issues."
Mills said consideration will be given to extending a temporary passing grade of 55 - rather than 65 - that is now being phased out. But that decision is probably about a year off, and will be made only after an extensive review of student performance.
"There was a time when people said 55 had to be in place for a long, long time, but from year to year more and more children have been able to rise to the occasion," the commissioner said. "You can always fall back, but there are other options. The Regents always look to what else can be done to reach the standards."
Mills also disputed claims that the standards have been rigid and inflexible, pointing to these adjustments: the 55 passing grade; less difficult exams for many special education students; the chance to take Regents exams over and over; mandated extra help for struggling students; and the opportunity for students who don't speak English to take most exams in their native languages.
"There has been lots of flexibility, and there is probably going to be more of it," Mills said.
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