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Regents recognize grad standards too big to rush

New York’s Fourth Judicial District is gigantic, encompassing 11 counties. To travel from the courthouse in Schenectady, at one end of the district, to the courthouse in Canton in the other corner would take someone more than three-and-a-half hours.

Even more important than the distance is the difference among the places that make up the Fourth Judicial District. Schenectady, Tupper Lake, Saratoga Springs, Plattsburgh, Mayfield, Moriah, Massena and Keene — these are very different, particularly when it comes to education.

It makes little sense for education policy makers to think that one meeting in an 11-county area really accomplishes much as far as getting the public’s thoughts on potential new graduation standards for the state.

Kudos, then, to members of the state Board of Regents who have quickly come to the realization that having a truly open process will mean holding more than one public input session as the Regents mull changing the state’s graduation standards.

Both the Regents and the state Education Department have a laundry list of groups they think should be part of these informational meetings. Many come with a vested interest in the system: interest groups of one form or another, union organizations, school district officials. Saying there will be one meeting in each judicial district –with a mile-long list of groups that should be represented — will mean it is impossible for regular folks whose children attend schools in New York state to make their voices heard through the chorus of invited voices.

The Regents have already adjusted the timeline for the graduation requirement process by lengthening the process by about a year. That was a good decision. The job is too big to rush. The Board of Regents may have to extend it again if they want to pay more than lip service to the idea of giving the public an opinion on these changes.

It is, after all, easier for the hand-picked, invited guests to submit comments on what they feel the state’s new graduation requirements should be than it is for mothers, fathers, school employees and other concerned citizens.