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Parents Around the State Applaud the Board of Regents’ Precedent-Setting Diploma Expansion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2017
More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
Bonnie Buckley (631) 513-8976 bonnief.buckley@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)
Multiple Pathways to a Diploma for All (MPDA)
 
Link to Press Release

​Parents Around the State Applaud the 
Board of Regents’ Precedent-Setting Diploma Expansion
 
On Monday, the NYS Board of Regents voted to create an additional alternate pathway to graduation for students who receive special education services. In doing so, the Board of Regents broke through the decades-old policy that tied all New York State high school diplomas to high-stakes exit exams. If the measure is formally adopted, these students who struggle with academic exams will be able to earn a diploma as long as they have completed the required amount of Regents-level coursework and earned the Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement credential. Furthermore, students who should have graduated in 2015, 2016, or 2017 and have already exited high school will now have the option to re-enroll to meet the new requirements and earn a local diploma.
 
“As a New York State resident and parent, I am confident that these students will now be recognized as having ‘earned’ their high school diploma and be viewed as the assets to our State that they are,” commented Betty Pilnik, Long Island public school parent and co-founder of Multiple Pathways to a Diploma for All. “These students have worked twice as hard as some of their peers and now will be able to join the workforce or the military or to further their education–options that were unavailable to them before the Board of Regents and NYSED acknowledged that these students deserve the opportunity to be contributing, productive members of society.”
 
Suzanne Coyle, Rockland County public school parent and an employment specialist concurred, “This is a significant and validating decision by the Board of Regents.  Students who have exited high school with a CDOS, but no diploma, have faced a world of challenges and severe limitations with regard to their employment opportunities, higher education, entrance into any branch of the US military, and funding for further vocational training. They’ve been denied, but this will be transformative.”
 
Between 2015 and 2017, approximately 45,000 students with disabilities did not graduate despite multiple attempts to pass multiple Regents exams. The Board of Regents had implemented various waivers and safety nets, including 2016’s “Superintendent’s Determination,” to aid some of those students, but according to Christine Zirkelbach, Founder of NY Stop Grad High Stakes Testing, “Only 417 students of those 45,000 students were able to graduate with a Superintendent’s Determination as it was originally established. With this revision, NYSED has held to students taking and passing Regents-level curriculum, a full 22 credits, and has added the vigorous work required to earn a CDOS as a pathway to a meaningful diploma for students with an IEP.  This is not lowering standards; this is substituting a hands-on practical assessment for a written exam.”
 
New York is one of only a few states that still requires high school exit exams, even when students have passed all their courses.  While parents see the Board of Regents vote as a major step forward,  we and our organizations will continue to advocate for the complete elimination of exit exams.
 
“It is a tragedy that so many students with disabilities have spent their entire high school career focused on passing these exams, many to no avail,” remarked Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent, educator and founding member of NYSAPE. This change is an important first step in recognizing that high-stakes exit exams have never been shown to improve postsecondary outcomes for ANY students and that to the contrary, these costly exams exacerbate inequalities and diminish opportunity.”
 
“The opt out movement has never just been about grades 3-8 high-stakes testing. It is about empowering parents to advocate on behalf of their children. This change reflects that advocacy effort and a research-based, common sense response by our Board of Regents. Child-first policy shifts like these will continue to move New York in the right direction,” echoed Jeanette Deutermann, NYSAPE co-founder and Long Island Opt Out founder.
 
Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and another co-founder of NYSAPE, also applauded the vote, but added a note of caution, “We thank the Board of Regents for removing some of the barriers for students who deserve to have a meaningful diploma. This is an important step forward, however the fact that the granting of the diploma ultimately rests with the superintendent means that parents need to be diligent advocates for their children. District-level waivers tend to favor students in districts whose parents are most active; as such it’s important to keep in mind that they can be inequitably applied.”
 
The public will have 45 days (December 27 through February 12) to comment on the proposed regulations and the state education department can make revisions as necessary after the public comment period has ended.
 
Bonnie Buckley, Long Island public school parent and co-founder of Multiple Pathways to a Diploma for All, knows the value of that civic engagement. “Two and a half years ago this inequity came to my attention when I learned my daughter wouldn’t be able to graduate without Regents exams. With several other parents, we started a grassroots movement and the Facebook page, Multiple Pathways to a Diploma for All, to address this inequity. I am profoundly grateful to Chancellor Rosa, the Board of Regents and NYSED for making it possible for children all around the state to move on with their lives. This is a door opening, and we are pleased with this change and are hopeful it is an indication of other changes.”
 
We will continue to advocate for the removal of high-stakes standardized tests as requirements for earning a New York State high school diploma.
 
NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition of over 50 parent and educator groups across the state. Multiple Pathways to a Diploma for All is a grassroots parent organization with nearly 6,000 members.

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