Standards

Mills Outlines Proposal for Stricter Standards

By Caroline Hendrie — September 24, 1997 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Get ready: Here they come.

That’s the message New York Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills delivered to Empire State educators last week as he unveiled a proposal to toughen the state’s requirements for graduation from high school.

“It will take immense effort and ingenuity on the part of local educators to help all students meet these standards and pass these exams,” Mr. Mills wrote in the proposal submitted last week to the state board of regents. “To give any student an undemanding or watered-down education is not kindness. It’s wrong.”

The plan, the latest step in a push to ratchet up standards statewide, calls for increasing the overall number of credits high school students need to graduate from 20.5 to 22, 18.5 of them in core academic subjects. It would add another year of both math and science to the current two years required in each, and require students to earn at least one year’s credit in a foreign language.

In announcing the plan, Mr. Mills backed off an idea he floated in July to require all high school students to declare a major in a particular field--which would have been a national first. But he stuck by another controversial proposal that would allow recent immigrants to take the state’s so-called regents’ exams in one of four foreign languages. (“N.Y. Plan Would Require Students To Pick a Major,” Aug. 6, 1997.)

The plan follows decisions by the regents to adopt new curriculum standards and to require that all students take and pass a battery of regents’ exams that have traditionally been reserved for college-bound students.

Panel Voices Concerns

The commissioner’s plan got a mixed reception late last week from the regents’ committee that oversees K-12 education. The regents as a whole are not expected to act on the plan until at least November.

Richard P. Mills

During two hours of discussion, committee members suggested that the commissioner revise the requirements for foreign languages, technology, and health, said Saul B. Cohen, the committee chairman and a former president of Queens College of the City University of New York. For example, the committee wants all students to have to take at least one year of a second language in high school. Mr. Mills had proposed allowing students to fulfill that requirement either by passing a proficiency exam or by passing a course.

A spokesman for Mr. Mills emphasized that the committee took no votes on the proposal last week and that discussion of the matter was just beginning.

Some committee members also objected to Mr. Mills’ recommendations for modifying the state’s unique multi-tiered system of diplomas. Students can now earn regents’ diplomas after passing a series of courses and exams designated by the state, a distinction earned last year by fewer than 40 percent of students statewide. Most of the remaining students earn local diplomas by passing less rigorous courses and state competency exams.

What’s in a Name?

Last year, the regents decided to phase out those competency tests and require all students to pass at least five regents’ tests to graduate, after a phase-in period ending in 2001.

To reflect that change, Mr. Mills proposed abolishing the local diploma and giving regents’ diplomas to students who meet the new minimum standards. He called for establishing a new advanced regents’ diploma for those who exceed those standards. In addition, he recommended creating a “safety net” for special education students by temporarily exempting them from passing the regents’ exams to graduate.

At last week’s meeting, committee members called for stiffening the requirements for earning the proposed advanced diploma, Mr. Cohen said. Some also questioned using the regents'-diploma designation for students who were meeting standards less rigorous than those now required for the regents’ diploma.

The committee deferred discussion of Mr. Mills’ proposal to allow students to take regents’ exams in Chinese, Haitian Creole, Russian, or Spanish. The idea faces stiff opposition from some regents.

Antonia Cortese, the first vice president of the New York State United Teachers, praised the thrust of Mr. Mills’ plan. The union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. “There may be some fine-tuning necessary, but it’s one that students should be able to complete after 12 years of schooling,” she said.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards Opinion How the Failure of the Common Core Looked From the Ground
Steve Peha shares insights from his on-site professional-development work about why the common core failed, in a guest letter to Rick Hess.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards Opinion Common Core Is a Meal Kit, Not a Nothingburger
Caroline Damon argues Rick Hess and Tom Loveless sold the common core short, claiming the issue was a matter of high-quality implementation.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden's Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.
5 min read
results 925693186 02
iStock/Getty
Standards Opinion After All That Commotion, Was the Common Core a Big Nothingburger?
The Common Core State Standards may not have had an impact on student outcomes, but they did make school improvement tougher and more ideological.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty