The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Every Little Bit of Reasonableness is a Step in the Right Direction

on December 15, 2017

Today’s poste is a review of an article hidden at the bottom of a back page in “The New York Times” this past week.  It may be just the time of year that is affecting me, but I see a powerful organization moving in the the right direction.

Over the past two years the New York State Board of Regents has begun to recognize the needs and efforts of students with disabilities and softened their requirements for graduation. Last year the Board required such students to pass only two Regents exams –one in English and one in math– instead of requiring them to pass all five. This year the Board went even further, voting unanimously to eliminate the need for disabled students to pass any of the exams– even though they still have to take them. Instead, those students may earn a credential demonstrating that they have mastered all the necessary skills in their classwork to make them ready for entry-level employment.

Although the successful students will receive what is called a “local” diploma instead of the traditional Regents diploma given to those who pass the required number of the final exams, the change in requirements opens the door for them to be accepted by colleges, the Military or employers in many fields.

Afterward there was strong criticism from the executive director of  “High Achievement New York”, an organization that strongly supports higher standards. Yet, the Board of Regents held its ground and its chancellor responded by declaring  “This isn’t about lowering the bar for what a student must know to graduate. Rather, these students need multiple ways to demonstrate they know it. The Board’s actions today provides them with the opportunity.”

From my perspective the Regents decision is not a display of softness toward disabled students.  The organization has always been demanding and firm in its requirements for all.  Their decision this time is not a gift of pity, but one of recognition that students’ classroom performance is as meaningful as test scores—and, maybe, even more so.

Although I may be too optimistic in viewing one organization’s sensible change as    an action that will bring on similar changes in other places, I still think it is the right time. What I’m hoping is that the Regents’ action will awaken others to the faultiness of commercial tests that operate on the assumption that “one size fits all”, and begin to understand that classroom performance is a much more reliable indicator.


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