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REGENTS' ALL-OR-NOTHING APPROACH WILL BACKFIRE

The move to reform the new graduation requirements standards adopted by the New York State Board of Regents is on and I no longer fear speaking out. Criticizing public education from within makes an individual a non-team player, which is a concept I have struggled with throughout my career as a high school counselor.

The new standards require all students to do everything equally well or not graduate. For some unknown reason, the Regents think students will remain in high school for five, six or seven years until they graduate, as if what they are learning will make them more employable and better citizens at 21 than at 18.

The problem with such a mind-set is that it equates brain surgery with truck driving. Both are essential tasks, but require different development of the intellect. To reverse the people who perform these tasks would be a disaster in both situations.

In a recent "My View" column, State Education Commissioner Richard Mills argues that all students should possess the basic skills of statistics, analyzing of facts and opinion, and mathematics beyond simply functions. There is a big difference between what we should know and what we must know.

Go to any place of employment and speak to, compare and evaluate 100 employees and I am certain that not all will possess equally developed skills. Regardless, each day they rely on each other as a group to accomplish a given task.

It is these differences among us that make us unique and force us to rely on one another. One hundred brain surgeons and zero truck drivers is not an acceptable scenario.

The Regents were right to increase the standards for graduation from high school. The goal of every society should be to improve the intellect, employability and the resulting living conditions of every individual.

But what will happen to those students who never pass all of the required exams and never graduate? Are we improving society by taking an all-or-nothing approach? I think we know the answers to these questions.

I can think of hundreds of jobs that do not require all of the newly mandated skills filled with hundreds of people who do not possess them, and yet, these people live happy, productive lives.

In conclusion, I would like to offer an alternative plan for increasing the standards while giving more students the opportunity to graduate in four years.

Since all students do not have, need or even want the same abilities, I suggest that the Regents allow students to graduate by passing three of the five Regents exams, with the other two exams coming from the local school districts. This all-or-nothing policy must be altered.

DOUGLAS J. CARSTENS
Lancaster

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