Graduation requirements in New York are likely to change in the coming months to become more inclusive and learning-centered with a focus on every student.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures presented its recommendations to the Board of Regents on Nov. 13. The Graduation Measures Initiative includes the community at large–parents, educators, administrators, school support staff, higher education and business–together with student voices.
“Every student has unique talents, skills, and interests, and a one-size-fits-all approach fails to recognize and nurture these differences,” says Betty Rosa, the state’s education commissioner. “We must remove barriers and facilitate equitable access to education by addressing the individual needs of students, increasing opportunities for work-based learning or college readiness programs, and providing students with practical skills and experiences that enhance their employability and post-secondary education opportunities.”
The Graduation Measures Initiative examined what it means to obtain a diploma in New York and what that diploma should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for all students in the state, officials say. The initiative’s goals: create equity in public education and ensure that students gain the skills to succeed.
The commission’s recommendations are to:
■ 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, 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 teacher preparation programs to provide instruction in culturally responsive-sustaining education practices and pedagogy.
■ Require that professional development plans include culturally responsive-sustaining education practices and pedagogy.
■ Review and revise the state’s learning standards.
The state Department of Education is expected to develop proposed guidance, programmatic, and regulatory changes to address the goals and priorities of the Graduation Measures Initiative.
“For far too many students, the schooling experience has slowly evolved into a system that all too often standardizes learning options and opportunities, and in many cases, treats differences as issues to be addressed rather than seeing them as learning opportunities and assets,” says Lester Young Jr., chancellor of the Board of Regents. “Also, research and experience reveal that policies and practices alone do not determine student educational outcomes. We now know, for example, that there is significant evidence that classroom techniques designed to get students to participate in the learning process produce better educational outcomes at virtually all levels.”
Young expects the commission’s work to help state educators plan and implement policy and practice solutions that respond to increasing diversity, guarantee inclusive learning environments, and safeguard equity and excellence.
“The commission’s recommendations culminate from a robust stakeholder input process and extensive review of relevant research,” Rosa says. “The recommendations will help us create a more inclusive learning environment while maintaining rigor and enhancing critical thinking skills, putting all students on a trajectory for success ensuring they’re prepared for college, career, and civic readiness in the 21st century and beyond.”
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].