Over the past decade state education leaders have diminished the Regents...

Over the past decade state education leaders have diminished the Regents diploma making it easier for students to pass the exams. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Regents exams aren’t what they used to be

I taught math for 33 years, mostly in high schools in Brooklyn and Nassau County. Attending regional meetings of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in the late 1980s, I would be told by New Jersey teachers "how lucky New York teachers were to have a set curriculum topped off with a statewide exam [“Regents tests not the problem,” Editorial, Nov. 27]." I was president of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics of New York City as well as an officer of the United Federation of Teachers Math Teachers Committee and was invited to the state Education Department in Albany to work on Regents exam questions and subject-teachers exams. I saw a drastic change when a book company took over the exam construction. Then, passing marks started to be "floating" to serve the bureaucrats' needs. The rest is history. I sincerely hope every member of the Board of Regents, every school superintendent and every member of the state committee on education get a copy of your editorial on their desks. What you said needs to be said and done.

Evelyn Estrine, Baldwin

Abandoning Regents exams does not abandon educational standards. Nor does it remove accountability. All that dropping the exams would do is put a merciful end to an antiquated system that does nothing to help students succeed in college or the real world.
Regents exams are simply tests of memorization of material that bear little connection to academic disciplines in college and test none of the higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills required in the modern economy. In fact, by driving curriculum and instruction, the exams suppress educational innovation and inhibit teaching real workplace skills. Grading puffery, cutoff score manipulation and school inequality — something that standardized tests have never addressed and never will eradicate — undercut the exams' objectivity.
The state should instead develop more opportunities for performance-based assessments like those used by more than 30 schools of the New York Performance Standards Consortium. That system is proven valid and reliable and fosters the deeper learning called for by the board. Students graduating from those schools have much higher rates of postgraduate success in college, as demonstrated by a 2020 study of consortium graduates.
Rather than sentencing students to inferior education, New York needs to take a leap into the modern world.

Harry Feder, Brooklyn

The writer is executive director of The National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

Seeking answers for Democrats

Howard Fensterman may be partially correct that “left-wing progressives” may not understand that their ideology is at odds with the “moderate centrist views,” but he is wrong about what happened in the Democratic campaign [“New York Democrats are at a crossroads,” Opinion, Nov. 26].

What happened was: nothing!

Few to no signs, speaking engagements or door-to-door visits (except to get out the vote in minority areas). Minimal TV, radio, internet or print ads, or literature until the last two weeks before the election. Moderate Democrats, progressive and independent voters were taken for granted.

If public safety is “a top priority,” why didn’t Gov. Kathy Hochul and the other Democrats combat the false rhetoric of Rep. Lee Zeldin with true data about cashless bail, crime and the need for police reform? Shortly after the election, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whom Zeldin had threatened to fire, requested dismissal of 188 cases because of police misconduct.

The “moderate” Democratic message I heard was about abortion rights, with which progressives agree. Where was gun control, the environment, voter rights? Are they moderate or progressive issues?

Now that campaign rhetoric is over, perhaps we can learn and listen to real facts and data involved in these issues.

 — Kathryn Meng, Westbury

  

The op-ed by Howard Fensterman correctly notes that New York progressives are misreading the midterm elections. Instead of blame, the Democratic leadership needs to build bridges between the center and progressive wings.

Tap into the energy of the progressives and combine it with the pragmatic approach of centrists. The progressive push to defund police and eliminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will never gain widespread support. Yet these movements stem from the current state of affairs. Good leadership can craft real solutions to problems — a rational immigration policy coupled with renewed efforts to stabilize neighboring countries.

Or improve law enforcement though rebuilding community relations, providing alternatives to deadly force, and revisit the level of training and counseling that police officers receive.

Democrats need to offer a positive vision for change that creates safer neighborhoods for all and improved opportunity for advancement while holding all accountable for their behavior.

— Gerry Ring, Old Bethpage

  

Howard Fensterman’s essay is incomplete, as he blames “public safety” for the fall of New York Democrats. While certainly it was a major factor, New York’s massive suburbs have been mostly neglected, and those voters are turning against the Democrats.

The baby boomer moderate Democrats are upset. Dreamers, felons and money handouts come first while U.S. borders stay wide open.

We are tired of supporting undocumented families who pay no income taxes but whose children sit next to ours in schools.

“Sanctuary cities”? Mayor Eric Adams puts many in New York hotels while we struggle with mortgages. The only thing that saved the Democrats from an election slaughter was the Supreme Court ruling on abortion. It seems nobody is on our side, and we deserve better.

 — Gary Bravstein, Searingtown

  

Kudos to Howard Fensterman for having the courage and insight to address the Democrats’ inexplicable need to self-destruct over an ideology that alienates its base, “hardworking, middle-class families.” President Ronald Reagan foretold this shift when he famously said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.”

Party officials need to analyze that most Long Islanders voted for Republicans whose party capped their state and local tax deduction. Why?

 — Michael J. Vicchiarelli, Eastport

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