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[Susan notes: William Cala is one of those ethical and strongminded school superintendents who stands up for kids.]

Published in Buffalo News

To the editor

Mills ignores the facts on Regents rules

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills' comments in "Regents requirements to remain largely intact," are troublesome in light of the documented facts detailing the damage caused to date. Here are a few culled primarily from studies commissioned by the State Education Department.

The gap in performance between large urban centers and other public schools has widened. IEP certificates (special education completion documents that are not high school diplomas) increased by an astounding 21.6 percent during Mills' testing reform. Students have been pushed out of school and moved into GED programs to hide the dropout rate.

A study by Advocates for Children determined that there were 160,000 students discharged (not counted as dropouts) in New York City schools from 1998-2001. The dropout rate among English language learners increased 12 percent in 2001. While the number of students taking Regents exams has increased - remember, they are mandated - the passing rates have declined in the last three years.

Mills claims to advocate for poor and minority students, yet the aforementioned damage has been relegated exclusively to the poor and students of color.

In a study recently released by the Manhattan Institute, graduation rates for 2000 were examined by looking at the percentage of students who finished high school within four years. The national average was 69 percent. New York State's graduation rate was an embarrassing 64 percent.

Mills states that our expressed concerns about the large number of students who will fail to graduate are "based on fears and not facts." Clearly, he has chosen to ignore the facts that do not support a reform of failed promises.

William C. Cala

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