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Regents May Ease Graduation Rules, Receive Math Recommendations

By Eileen Buckley

Albany, NY – The State Board of Regents may consider easing graduation rules for high school students. Under the proposal, students would apply for waivers if they fail a high school regents exam by just a few points. However, students would still need to meet other requirements.

The State Education department issued the proposal this week. The board is concerned with low graduation rates statewide.

Meanwhile, the Board of Regents has also issued a revised plan for new state math standards. Regents Chancellor Robert Bennett says the proposed changes stem from a large failure rate by high school students on the Math A Regents in June of 2003.

Initially, the board appointed an independent math panel which offered recommendations for changes to math standards. Bennett says the Mathematics Standards Committee issued the proposed changes that would effect Pre-K through 8th grades.

"There is a math problem, period," Bennett said. "They heard testimony and had input from early childhood experts. So, now they have some evidence that math knowledge can be developed at that very early age."

Bennett says the proposed changes would start with basic math skills -- addition, subtraction and division. But then students would learn why and how to apply those skills.

"To make math a more exciting subject for students, you need to remove the fear and make sure they get it from the beginning," Bennett said. "It is a cumulative subject, much like English, in which you have to have basic literacy to enjoy reading and writing. So what we want to do is give math equal attention as we do with English."

Bennett says by the time the students reach 9th grade and begin Algebra, math performance would be vastly improved.

The changes are now up for public review. The Board could adopt the changes this month.