New York could expand graduation requirements for high schoolers

The rules for graduating high school in New York could be overhauled. A panel of teachers, parents and educators was tasked with reimagining what it should take for students to graduate high school.

Jonathan Gordon

Nov 13, 2023, 5:22 PM

Updated 152 days ago

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The rules for graduating high school in New York could be overhauled after a commission presented a dozen recommendations to the New York State Education Department on Monday.
The panel of teachers, parents and educators was tasked with reimagining what it should take for students to graduate high school.
The panel made a dozen recommendations for NYSED to consider, including moving away from the four-year timeline to graduate, reorganizing credit requirements into bigger categories to make them more attainable, and giving students other ways to demonstrate their knowledge besides standardized testing.
  • Replace the three diploma types with one diploma, with the option to add seals and endorsements.
  • Include civic responsibility (ethics); cultural competence; financial literacy education; fine and performing arts; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) credit(s); and writing, including writing skills for real-world scenarios in diploma credit requirements.
  • Ensure access to career and technical education (CTE), including internships and work-based learning opportunities for all students across New York state.
  • Move to a model that organizes credit requirements— including content area credit requirements— into larger categories (e.g., mathematics and science courses could be included in the “STEM” category).
  • Reduce and/or modify diploma assessment requirements to allow more assessment options.
  • Create state-developed rubric(s) for any performance-based assessments allowed as an option to satisfy the diploma assessment requirements.
  • Create more specific, tailored graduation requirements to address the unique circumstances of certain groups of students (e.g., non-compulsory age students, newcomer students, refugee students).
  • Provide exemptions from diploma assessment requirements for students with significant cognitive disabilities and major life events and extenuating circumstances (e.g., medical conditions, death of a family member, trauma prior to sitting for a required exam).
  • Pursue regulatory changes to allow the discretion to confer high school degrees posthumously.
  • Require all New York state teacher preparation programs to provide instruction in culturally responsive-sustaining education (CRSE) practices and pedagogy.
  • Require that professional development plans include culturally responsive-sustaining education practices and pedagogy.
  • Review and revise the New York state learning standards. 
Many parents have expressed concerns about how much testing their kids must go through to graduate, especially when there's no "standardized student."
"The kids are on different levels at different ages and different subjects. Some kids are great at math. Some are not good at math and they're all the same age," said parent Mike Sierra.
To graduate currently, students must pass Regents exams in English Language Arts, math (Algebra I, Geometry, or Algebra II/Trigonometry, social studies (Global History and Geography or U.S. History and Government, science (Living Environment, Chemistry, Earth Science, Physics) and one additional exam. As well as earn at least 44 credits in English, social studies, math, science, world languages, physical education, health, arts and electives.
"We recognize that standardized assessments do provide a snapshot assessment on a day and time but in today's day and age after we went through the challenges associated with the pandemic and there was a suspension of standardized testing, I think more folks are recognizing now that there could be better ways to measure student achievement," said White Plains Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca.
Some of the recommendations could require governor or state legislative actions.
State Sen. Shelley Mayer, a member of the state Senate Education Committee, said there's already legislative pressure to make some of the changes the panel called for.
"They want to see increased attention to teaching to a broader array of subjects and styles so that kids can succeed," said Sen. Mayer.
New York state Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa said the Board of Regents will review the recommendations this summer and next fall.
“Every student has unique talents, skills, and interests, and a one-size-fits-all approach fails to recognize and nurture these differences. We must remove barriers and facilitate equitable access to education," said Rosa.
State Education Department officials said they hope to provide a clearer timeline for the changes in the spring.


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