Update to Letter to Regents on Graduation Requirements

Dear Board of Regents,

The current New York State Education Department graduation requirements for Special Education students are unrealistic and have created a cycle of test and punish for those children who require the most support.

Despite the objections of parents and educators across NYS, the Board of Regents and NYSED discontinued the RCT option for students with disabilities as of the 9th grade cohort of 2011.  Students  with  disabilities that impact traditional learning have been put into the position of retaking Regents exams over and over again in an attempt to earn a local diploma. Students have had to give up study in areas that may be a strength, such as art, music, practical mechanics, to spend hours in review sessions to get through five Regents exams.

The Board of Regents and NYSED have further compounded the problem with the Common Core Algebra and ELA exams. The language on the Algebra 1 exam is overly confusing with “gotcha” questions, and is a vocabulary test on top of a math test.

The ELA regents now includes passages with very complex language, for example, Chekov, or excerpts from Stephen Hawking on physics and string theory. It is certainly fair to teach students with these types of passages, but it is unrealistic to expect a child with a reading disability to process such complex information on an exam where their entire future rests.

According to NYSED’s own report on graduation statistics through 2014, 8480 students in the 2010 cohort graduated with a local diploma. These students would have had access to the RCTs as a backup strategy. Now, this same group is on a test and be punished cycle beginning in June of their 9th grade year.

graduation report local diploma

Students who may excel in mechanics but who are not good test takers cannot graduate;  those with dyslexia who may be very strong in math have no further options.

The response that these students should “try harder” is unacceptable.

Allowing  access to a waiver process that is similar to the process that currently exists for General Education students is a very good first step.  As of December, students in special education with learning disabilities who earn a 50 to 54 on two Regents exams in one subject may apply for a waiver provided that they have good attendance and have successfully completed their coursework.  But that is not enough!!

We ask, as an interim solution,  that the Board of Regents and NYSED implement the following changes to the pathway to a local diploma to end the special education students’s cycle of test and punish.

* Allow all students in special education with learning disabilities the option to take the RCTs though 2017, while they are still available to the 2010 cohort.

* Schedule Regents exams in each category on separate days so that students in special education with learning disabilities do not end up taking exams for up to 12 hours in one day. (All Math Regents to be scheduled on the same day, All Science Regents to be scheduled on the same day, and ELA, USH and GHG each schedule on a day that does not conflict with other required Regents exams)

* Approve the CDOS as a valid diploma option and open it up to all students. A credential that demands rigorous work and is only available to students in special education with learning disabilities is a violation of FERPA. Students on the CDOS track are still required to take Regents level courses (but have a waiver for passing Regent exams) in addition to the 216 hours required to complete the CDOS qualification, and it should be treated as a meaningful path to graduation.

* Make these changes retroactive for the students in the 2011 9th grade cohort.

As a longer term solution, we ask that the Board of Regents and the NYSED form a working committee to define multiple measures to meaningful assessments of skills so that students truly graduate with the skills they will need in the future. This working committee should consist of representatives of the Coalition for Multiple Pathways for a Diploma, special education and ELL specialists and true career educators.

The Regents exams, in their current form, do not objectively meet the goal of college and career ready.  Passing a test is not a skill needed on a daily basis to be successful in life.

Thank you.


Yes, Regents, There Are Problems with Algebra2

On Tuesday, December 8th, there was a very well attended meeting in Oceanside, NY on Multiple Pathways to a Diploma.  In a follow up conversation, a parent said they  raised the issue of the problem with Algebra 2, outside of the context of the forum, and Regent Tilles responded that the curriculum was fine.

Well, many parents, teachers and colleges disagree.  Kathi Gaherty-Heggers as been investigating this issue for her son for quite some time. Below is her response to Regent Tilles.


Dear Regent Tilles,
I was told that you stated last night that there are NO problems with Algebra 2 currently. This email is designed to enlighten you into the Hell in which we are living.
1. All schools are not offering same scope & sequence. Some have text books, some are using modules, some designed their own curriculum, some are teaching the old course Algebra2/trig with the hopes that both regents will be offered, some changed the course entirely.
2. The trig portion of the old course has been removed which leaves our children with 11 days of trig. All college math professors have stated that they need more than this to be successful at a college level. Our children also need to get a high score on the ACT (which has trig),  11 days won’t cut it. They need these things to go to college, they need to pass this course to go to college. All this college & career readiness talk coming from you is ACTUALLY doing the EXACT OPPOSITE. Based on the poor guidance & complete lack of judgement in redesigning this course our kids are suffering, my kid is suffering. YOU CAN’T keep making mistakes this is NOT TRIAL & ERROR! OUR KIDS ARE NOT GUINEA PIGS !!
3. Class of 2017 was taught integrated algebra in 8th grade & 9th grade with a slight introduction to common core and were given both regents exams. Looking at the data, will support my claim that they WERE NOT proficient in common core. Yet they now have to take & PASS a course completely designed with common core thought processes, problem solving and critical thinking tools that they WERE NOT taught.
4. 11th grade children all across NYS are attending community colleges to take a High School Algebra class (why because it is more inline with what they know) So kids need to go to college in order to pass a HS class so they can go to a 4 yr college. YOU SEE NO PROBLEM WITH THIS??
5. I have spoken to over 15 colleges all of which require Algebra 2/trig, problem being that is NOT the course anymore. The colleges WANT the TRIG, so what does that mean for our children? REMEDIAL MATH IN COLLEGE (if they can even get in with the current course now). The high schools are teaching Algebra 2 ..the college board wants TRIG..the colleges want Algebra2/TRIG…NCAA is looking to approve certain courses & deny others based on the name & the content of the course …so depending upon which high school you attend & how the course is designed & offered will ultimately determine if you will go to college and play a sport.. You still don’t see a problem…I hope I have enlightened you a little on the world in which we have been living for the last 3 months.
Please Address these issues with your fellow Board members and get back to me as soon as possible