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Education Newsletter June 2001

Regents Hold the Line on 65

At its June meeting, Board of Regents declined, for now, to alter its schedule that phases in a minimum 65 passing grade for all five Regents exams by 2004.

Before extending the current low-pass option, members of the Board said they need more data on exactly who’s being “saved” by it, where they go to school, and whether they’re getting the support they need to meet higher standards.

Preliminary data released earlier this month from a study by Penn State and Cornell University researchers showed the state’s move to higher academic standards has largely been a success. Changes are being made in school districts across the state.

The Business Council supports the Regents in holding to their time schedule.

Legislature Poised to Water Down Standards at Any Time

Three bills have been introduced in the legislature that would have the undesirable effect of easing the state’s commitment to getting students to reach the higher standards.

One piece of legislation would require the state education department to develop alternative portfolio assessments that could be used by any school district. Portfolio assessments have been found to be expensive, subjective and generally unreliable with regard to comparability. A.9052 / S.5517

Another would exempt career and technical education students from the Social Studies and Science Regents Exams. The Board of Regents just adopted some new flexibility options regarding the manner in which students can pursue both their career and technical interests and strengthen their academic base.

Now is not the time to retreat from improving career and technical education. A.9053 / S.5516

The third would exempt certain English Language Learners from the Regents English Language Arts exam.

The Business Council opposes these bills. We believe measuring whether or not students have met the standards is a key feature of school improvement. Schools and the public need to know how students are doing in order to inform improvement initiatives. For students a diploma needs to mean they have actually met the more rigorous state requirements.

At this writing no action has been taken on these bills, but that could change at any time. Please let your legislators know that you support the standards and the tests that measure whether or not students attain them.

Our memos in opposition and more information are available from our web site.

Students with Disabilities/ Safety Net Extended

In order to accommodate the special issues facing some students with disabilities, the Board of Regents recently extended a so called “safety net” for four more years for these students. It will now be available for students with disabilities entering the nine grade in each school year through September 2004.

This provision allows students with disabilities who do not pass a Regents exam required for their class to meet the requirements for a local diploma by passing a Regents Competency Test or the equivalent in that subject. Students with disabilities must still take the Regents exam and Regents level course work, but can also take the RCT before or after the Regents exam. The RCT’s will be available until the student graduates or reaches the age of 21.

This safety net for students with disabilities is different from the 55 low pass local option that is currently available for all students, but which will be phased out by 2004.

Manufacturing Skill Standards Approved

The Manufacturing Skills Standards Council recently announced that the National Skills Standards Board (NSSB) has approved “A Blueprint for Workforce Excellence: Core and Concentration Skill Standards.”

It is available for use in education and training programs, hiring practices and other workforce development activities.

These standards are the first to be approved by the NSSB for all manufacturing sectors. They were developed by industry in partnership with business, labor, education, training and other public interest groups. They can be used to:

Develop and/or improve training programs.

You can look at the standards on the MSSC web site (www.msscusa.org) or you can order copies.

To order by phone, or if you have any questions, please call Emily Brennan, MSSC staff at 202-216-2753.