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Submitted photo Regent Katherine Collins of Buffalo is pictured highlighting a research report on graduation requirements at the most recent Board of Regents meeting.

New state graduation standards are still far in the future.

The State Board of Regents recently received the first phase of the new graduation standards: a report focusing on graduation requirements in the United States and abroad and a report containing the results of public input sessions. That work will be turned over to the 64-member Blue Ribbon Commission, which will review the latest report and other studies to make recommendations to the Board of Regents. The commission was originally supposed to complete its work last summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed that original schedule.

Regent Catherine Collins, who represents the 8th Judicial District, which includes Chautauqua County, wants to remain part of the traditional regents mix. Collins is a staunch advocate of keeping the Regents exams, and even as the process enters its third year, she hasn’t changed her stance.

“The Regents are my concern. When I saw modified, it was good to seemodify, but it said to remove regents exams. Collins said of the report’s comments on modifying or ending Regents exams “I was fortunate to earn a Regents Science Diploma that gave me the foundation to go into healthcare. We should be very careful with this document, not only in healthcare, but also in other fields like engineering.

The lengthy research document — available at www.nysed.gov/grad-measures — focused on several states and other countries that are thought to produce positive student outcomes and use several methods to identify whether a student is ready to graduate. High school exit exams, such as the Regents exams, don’t always lead to student success and lead to high high school dropout rates, the report’s authors said.

State Education Commissioner and former Board of Regents chairwoman Betty Rosa responded to Collins’ comments by saying that regents and others involved in writing new standards should not stick to the past because it worked for them, but instead focus on a system. Works for all students.

“At the end of the day our job is to keep in mind what our students want for the future, to listen to the voices of various constituents, but most importantly to listen to the voices of our students” Rosa said. “Our students talked about financial literacy. Our students talked about what the Regents are all about. Our students talked about various topics. Remember it’s all about customer service. Our customers are students. So let’s move forward with our commission to ensure that they have opportunities, and not just opportunities, but access to those opportunities with excellence.

Other Regents members questioned whether or not to change instructional methods and course modules in addition to graduation requirements. Regent Roger Tilles said the 166-page report appears to focus on the current preschool-to-12th-grade system, while wondering if that’s because those currently working in education want the system to stay. A slide presentation to the Regents showed that teachers made up the majority of participants in public hearings to gather input for the new standards, with 71% of the 2020 surveys coming from teachers, followed by 54% and 56% of responses to a pair of 2022 surveys.

“I think we’re tied into a system that may not be the best system to create senior citizens, not senior citizens, in terms of partners sanding down all these recommendations through the forums that we’ve had.” Tilles said. “Citizenship is important. I’m not sure we will. I don’t know if it will take years of work, but I think what you have done is exemplary and amazing. But I wonder if we are connected to the wrong pole.

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