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New York State Graduation Requirements, Change is on the Horizon

Published June 20, 2024

By Arshi Pal, Esq.

While New York currently offers students with disabilities a significant amount of flexibility, including safety net options, to achieve a local diploma, there are still many inequities. For example, if a school district designates a student as eligible for alternate assessments due to severe cognitive disabilities, the student can only receive a Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential (Skills Credential) and will not receive a high school diploma from the public school district. This is unfair to many students, as the inflexibility precludes college for students with significant disabilities who could attend college with support.

Blue Ribbon Commission Recommends more Equitable Diploma Options

Thus, to make graduation options more equitable, in 2019, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) created a Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures to revamp New York’s graduation requirements to ensure that all New York State public school students receive the educational opportunities and supports they will need to succeed in school and beyond. The Blue Ribbon Commission presented its recommendations in November 2023. Earlier this month NYSED unveiled a plan to implement the recommendations of the Commission.

On June 10, 2024, NYSED presented a proposal, which includes four major transformations: Adopt the New York State Portrait of a Graduate; Redefine Credits; Sunset Diploma Assessment Requirements; and Move to One Diploma. Based on the proposal, students will have to demonstrate the ability to be critical thinkers, innovative problem solvers, literate across all content areas, culturally competent, socially-emotionally competent, effective communicators, and global citizens. The diploma credit requirements must include civic responsibility (ethics); cultural competence; financial literacy education; fine and performing arts; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) credits; and writing skills. Although Regents exams can be used to demonstrate proficiency in learning standards, students will no longer be required to pass the Regents exams or a +1 Pathway assessment to graduate. The State will have only one diploma for all public-school graduates, with the option for seals or endorsements for advanced designations. These changes should open doors for students with disabilities as they may open doors to graduation and diplomas for those who can demonstrate proficiency outside of standardized exams.

Although NYSED has endorsed the plan, the change has not been finalized. The Blue Ribbon Commission will hold “Ambassador Forums” between June and October 2024 to engage stakeholders for additional feedback. The Commission will then present the full plan with specifics on implementation in November 2024. The NYSED proposed actions are available for review.

What this Means for Your Child

New York State law has not changed on diploma options. Currently, in New York, students can earn either a Local Diploma, Regents Diploma, or Advanced Regents Diploma to graduate from high school in public school. Students with disabilities can remain in high school until age 21 or until they graduate with a Local or Regents Diploma or a regular diploma from a private school. New York also has set criteria for students with disabilities to achieve a Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Credential or a Skills Credential. Achieving the CDOS or Skills Credential does not end special education eligibility and does not confer a diploma. These credentials generally cannot be used to apply to college or trade schools.

The Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations will take time to implement and finalize. Make sure to talk to your school district about diploma options for your child as early as possible, as the designation of eligibility for alternate assessments, as one example, will change the curriculum and trajectory for your child and will make it challenging to move to a diploma track.

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