My name is Christine Zirkelbach and I am the founder of NY Stop Grad HST which is a member organization of NYSAPE. On the train ride down I had time to research why students drop out of school. The various research that I looked at had one common thread – students drop out because they feel school has nothing left to give them. They may work, party, take the GED and start college early, party or do nothing.
I am here to talk about the special education students with average IQs but have learning disabilities or learning differences that make them poor test takers. These are students that want to stay in school, who want to prove that their disability will not stand in the way of their earning a high school diploma or having a successful life. Unfortunately, the Board of Regents and NYSED against them. As of the 9th grade class of 2011, special education students no longer have the RCT or Regents Competency Tests as a safety net for a local diploma. They are expected to take 5 Regents and pass with a 55, but if they get up to a 65 on the ELA or Math Regents they can borrow up to 10 points to bring a grade of 45 or higher on a Science, Global History or US History Regents, but if they fail the Global History or US History Regents they can replace that with a Regents Pathway which is 4 major tracks with a total of 13 different options of study in which they can be tested.
Meanwhile, they can go for a CDOS (Career Development & Occupational Studies) which requires 2 units of study for a total of 216 hours including a minimum of 54 hours work. The CDOS is not a diploma. In fact, NYSED issues a memo in August 2014 making it clear that the word “Diploma” not appear on a CDOS. The CDOS, which is only available to SPED students, clearly violated FERPA.
These students, who will not be able to make it through the 5 Regents, will be dropouts. These students who only earn a CDOS will be dropouts. Local diploma earners, who used the RCT option where 3-5% of graduates for 2014 across all demographics, urban,suburban and rural, white, black and Hispanic.
It took NYS four years to increase the graduation rates 4%. We will lose this in one year because of poor policy decisions. NYSED and the Board of Regents are leaving children behind.