New York may modify graduation requirements


State education officials are considering changing high school graduation requirements, including potentially eliminating the Regents exam as a mandatory component.

The changes, which would directly impact the Long Beach school district, were presented to the Board of Regents by the State Education Department on June 10.

Currently, students in the state can earn one of three types of diplomas: a local diploma, a Regents diploma, or a Regents diploma with advanced designation, like the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The system requires students to meet both credit and assessment requirements. Credits are earned primarily by completing specific units of study, and the required assessments, or exams.

The proposed changes would introduce a single diploma for all students. They could earn it by demonstrating proficiency in a variety of ways, including personalized methods tailored to individual strengths and learning styles.

“True equity and excellence in education are achievable, but only if we provide all students with meaningful educational opportunities and multiple avenues for them to demonstrate their mastery of the state’s rigorous learning standards,” Lester W. Young Jr., chancellor of the Board of Regents, said in a statement. “Our job is to prepare students for a lifetime of continuous learning, fulfilling careers, and informed civic engagement.”

The advanced designation would be replaced by a seal or endorsement that recognizes a student’s specific skills and achievements. Districts would also have the flexibility to add additional seals or endorsements.

Long Beach Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Gallagher expressed her support for the potential changes. “I think this is a long overdue, positive change for schools and for students,” she said in an email. “While standardized testing has a place in education for program evaluation and benchmarking, these tests are only one ‘snapshot’ of student achievement, and should never be the sole determinant in earning a high school diploma.”

The first component of the plan, called the NYS Portrait of a Graduate, would assess students on various essential skills for graduation, including critical thinking, problem solving, literacy across disciplines, cultural and social-emotional competence, effective communication, and global citizenship.

The second component would reform the credit system, allowing students to earn credits in ways other than traditional classroom time. These would include work- or service-based experiences such as a Capstone project; an Early College High School program, in which a student earns college credit or an associate’s degree while also earning their diploma; state credentials or seals; participation in the arts; or a career and technical education program, according to the Education Department.

The third component would eliminate the Regents exam as a mandatory graduation requirement, although it would remain available as an option for evaluating students according to state standards. State assessments would still be administered, to comply with the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, a law that aims to ensure educational equity, which was approved in New York in 2018.

“We are preparing our students for future jobs that do not yet exist,” Gallagher said. “The proposals by the Board of Regents are a significant step towards designing curricula that are more relevant to students’ lives and future career goals.”

Starting in July, the Education Department and members of a Blue-Ribbon Commission will begin gathering feedback on the plan. The process will continue until October, and focus on potential budget considerations as well. In November, the department and the commission plan to present a comprehensive proposal to the Board of Regents detailing an implementation strategy with projected timelines and impacted regulations.