May 10, 2004
By the Board of Directors

Regents Graduation Requirements

BACKGROUND: Before the Board of Regents raised standards, students were able to graduate by passing tests at an 8th-grade level. Enrollments in remedial courses in community colleges, and the complaints of employers about the poor qualifications of recent high-school graduates, both demonstrated that tens of thousands of high-school “graduates” were being turned out each year without adequate preparation. In response to an outcry from business, labor and the public, the Regents raised graduation standards, and required minimal passing scores on five Regents exams for high-school graduation. Data available to date show that after four years of high school, between 85 and 90 percent of students are passing each of the exams they need to graduate, and the number graduating each year has remained the same. The fact that standards are measured has also spurred schools to focus on the students who are traditionally under-served and forgotten. Yet there has been a continual outcry from some educators and others who complain that the testing regimen is unfair—and now the Legislature is considering proposals to rewrite these requirements. We do not believe it is possible to have high standards, without an assessment regimen to ensure that those standards are being met. And in our view, the real unfairness was the former practice of giving kids a diploma, without giving them an education.

RESOLVED: The Business Council of New York State, Inc. opposes any legislation to weaken the Regents’ graduation requirements. The Business Council supports the requirement of the New York State Board of Regents that students pass five Regents exams (or their approved equivalent) in order to receive a high school diploma. The skills and knowledge required in the workforce continue to increase at a rapid pace. It would be detrimental for students if the Legislature were to, in effect, lower standards by superceding the state testing requirements. Relaxing the Regents’ testing requirements would only serve to absolve schools of the responsibility of providing every student with the opportunity to earn a meaningful high school diploma.