Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New NY Diploma Requirements for Students with IEPs

Earlier this year, we wrote about changes to diploma options for New York State students that affected students with IEPs who could not pass required Regents exams, the "gold standard" exams that were required for graduation with a "Regents Diploma."

Now, additional changes have been put in place by the New York State Board of Regents, the body that sets the standards for all schools statewide, that take effect on June 20th of this year, so that they will apply to students due to graduate with the Class of 2016. 

Essentially, students with IEPs who have not been able to pass Regents exams otherwise required for graduation can still graduate with a "local diploma," which is sufficient for college admissions, employers, and the military, if their school superintendent (or the principal of their "approved" private school) has determined that the student has met the learning standards for the course. These standards include the final course grade as well as grades on homework, projects, class work, quizzes and tests, as well as "actively participating" in (although not necessarily passing) the exam required for graduation. 

Students will still be required to pass English Language Arts (ELA) and Math Regents, since these two subjects are deemed foundational skills. But they will not be required to pass other Regents exams and, instead, can be judged competent in these subjects by a superintendent's review as outlined above. 

The Board of Regents notes that these newly announced changes are intended to be in addition to other “safety net” options currently available to students with disabilities to graduate with a local diploma. These are:
  • Pass five required Regents exams with a score of 55 – 64
  • Receive a local diploma via appeal if all of the conditions of appeal are met.  This option is for students who score up to three points below a score of 55 on a Regents exam 
  • Score between 45-54 on one or more of the Regents exams required for graduation, other than ELA or mathematics, but achieve a score of 65 or higher on another required Regents exam which can compensate for the lower score. A score of 65 or higher on a single examination may not be used to compensate for more than one examination for which a score of 45-54 is earned.
All of these alternative paths to graduation are part of a delicate balancing act. Parents and educators want to make sure that all students -- including those with disabilities -- are offered a rigorous curriculum to prepare them for adulthood.  On the other hand, both parents and schools recognize that because of their disabilities, some of these students will not be able to meet the highest bar set by certain state exams and risk being left without a high school diploma despite their best efforts to achieve this crucial credential. These newest changes by the Regents, together with their earlier modifications of graduation requirements, are an effort to strike the best balance for these students.

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