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For Release — Tuesday, May 11, 2004

COUNCIL'S BOARD OF DIRECTORS URGES STATE NOT TO WEAKEN ACADEMIC STANDARDS OR ITS COMMITMENT TO TESTS BASED ON THEM


ALBANY—The leadership of New York State's business community has urged state policymakers not to weaken the state Board of Regents' graduation requirements or diminish the use of standardized tests based on those requirements as a means of measuring student achievement.

At a meeting in Albany on Monday, May 10, the board of directors of The Business Council of New York State passed a resolution strongly reinforcing The Council's long-standing commitment to tough, mandatory academic standards and tests based on them.

"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 resolution passed by The Council's board said. The Business Council is New York's largest broad-based business group.

"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 superseding 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."

Before the Board of Regents raised standards, students were able to graduate by passing tests at an eighth-grade level, the board noted.

"Before the Regents raised standards, 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," the board said.

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 board said. In addition, the new emphasis on measurement has also prompted schools to focus on students who are traditionally under-served and forgotten.

Despite this success, some educators and others are complaining that tests and/or standards are "unfair, and they are urging state lawmakers to rewrite these requirements, the board noted.

"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," the board said.

The Business Council has long been a staunch advocate of policies that would make schools more effective in teaching kids and more accountable for their success or failure in that mission. For example, The Council's research affiliate, The Public Policy Institute, designed the prototype for the state's school report cards, and then was the most forceful advocate of the law that then required the state to create and disseminate them. The Council has also consistently supported higher standards and standardized tests based on them.

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