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June 3, 1999 

Council urges state to hold fast on academic standards

In testimony, Reinfurt warns that withheld diplomas may raise a call to relax standards New York should expect-and strongly resist-pressure to relax its new, high academic standards if many students fail to meet those standards and do not earn diplomas on time next year.

"Only in New York is the education reform movement really facing the bottom line by saying: No, we will not give you a high-school diploma until we've given you a high-school education," Ed Reinfurt, vice president of The Business Council, said Wednesday at a legislative hearing on the new Regents standards for high schools.

Thousands of students may fail to meet the new standards and to earn diplomas on schedule, Reinfurt said.

"When that happens, what will follow?" he said. "Will New York beat a hasty retreat from higher standards? Or will the failure rate at last awaken all of us to the do-or-die necessity of shaping up our public school system?"

Reinfurt said that New York's schools have been betraying generations of students by awarding them high-school diplomas without giving them high-school educations.

This practice has forced colleges and universities to undertake remedial education. It has also sent thousands of students into a work world that no longer offers low-skill jobs with high wages, he added.

He noted that students who do not meet standards will not be abandoned by the education system because they are entitled to free public education until they are 21 years old.

Scores on last year's Regents tests provide ample argument for staying the course, he said. Some schools with many disadvantaged students had higher-than-average achievement rates, undercutting the argument that standards can't be met without more money, he added.

Click here to view the full testimony.