The world of education could soon be changing in the state of New York. News recently came out regarding the New York State Education Department and how potential changes have been suggested for New York State's high school students. These changes would apply to the specific requirements that high school students in the state would need to reach before being able to graduate high school.

The NYS Blue Ribbon Commission's Study for Recommendations

While these suggestions were only recently presented, suggestions were made following a years-long process and study by the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures.

According to the press release from the New York State Education Department, the study called the Graduation Measures Initiative began back in 2019 with the goal of rethinking and reexamining NYS graduation requirements because "the current system wasn’t working for all students."

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The recommended changes from the commission followed the gathering of input from "robust stakeholders" meaning the educators, administrators, researchers, school counselors, professionals from business and higher education, parents, and students. All of that input allowed for the commission to present recommendations that create a "roadmap for learning-centered education that best meets the needs of every student in New York State."

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The Blue Ribbon Commission Recommendations

In the study released by the Commission, it stated that the recommendations were determined over the course of several months. In their preliminary findings, the Commission outlined a total of 59 recommendations, then through a voting process ranked the recommendations from "highest priority, medium priority, lowest priority and did not support."

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That process reduced the number of recommendations to 37 and then those 37 recommendations were combined into a final 12. These 12 recommendations were then presented to the Commissioner of Education as well as the New York Regents. The recommendations are as follows...

1. Replace the three diploma types with one diploma, with the option to add seals and endorsements.

2. 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.

3. Ensure access to career and technical education (CTE), including internships and work-based learning opportunities for all students across New York State.

4. 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).

5. Reduce and/or modify diploma assessment requirements to allow more assessment options.

6. Create state-developed rubric(s) for any performance-based assessments allowed as an option to satisfy the diploma assessment requirements.

7. 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).

8. 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).

9. Pursue regulatory changes to allow the discretion to confer high school degrees posthumously.

10. Require all New York State teacher preparation programs to provide instruction in culturally responsive-sustaining education (CRSE) practices and pedagogy.

11. Require that professional development plans include culturally responsive-sustaining education practices and pedagogy.

12. Review and revise the New York State learning standards.

Takeaways from Commission Recommendations

Obviously, there are numerous parts to these recommendations that could catch one's attention. The first one immediately catches the eye as it would eliminate NYS Regents Exams.

According to the NYSED, the first regents exams administered to New York high school students came back in June of 1878. At the time, 100 schools participated in the exams and they covered the subjects of Algebra, American History, Elementary Latin, Natural Philosophy, and Physical Geography.

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The second recommendation on the list is also quite interesting for a number of reasons. The inclusion of or re-emphasizing the importance of civic responsibilities or ethics could be quite beneficial to young students. The same can be said for financial literacy education. In addition, the recommendations would imply the importance of teaching students particular skills as opposed to just gaining knowledge from a textbook.

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At this point in time, following the presentation by the commission, it is expected that the recommendations will be taken by the New York Regents who will then begin policy discussions. It is anticipated that it won't be until some time in 2024 when the Regents finalize any reforms or recommendations.

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