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.


18 thoughts on “Update to Letter to Regents on Graduation Requirements

  1. I totally agree! I feel special education students are being discriminated against, especially in New York state, since we are the ONLY state that requires regents. I have been a public education teacher for over 26 years. I believe in public education, but I don’t believe in the current requirements for special education students to get a high school diploma in New York. Also, many of these students understand that they are not passing these exams, and that they have to keep trying to pass these exams, possibly, maybe most likely, with no positive results. What are we doing to these students? What happens to their self esteem? Every day life is challenging for these individuals, do we need to make it even more challenging? I have written to every one I can think of with any power to change these requirements, with no real results. I hope that if we can all get together and do something as a group, maybe someone will listen and we can make a change. Many of these students’ don’t have voices of their own, we need to speak up for them. Lives are at stake here.

  2. Governor Cuomo in New York state ordered a task force to evaluate the Common Core and make recommendation. They just issued their report.The task force is not clear about regents tests that affect the ability to get a diploma for thousands’ of kids. The task force talks vaguely about keeping college ready standards which could imply keeping regents exams at the same benchmark which is above proficient. Black and Latino kids and kids with special needs score significantly lower than White and Asian kids. By suspicion is that by preventing certain groups from getting a diploma because of the test. They create a permanent minority underclass. This underclass without high school diplomas have fewer job and profession choices and limits to how far than can rise in their jobs. They are more vulnerable to layoffs and therefore easy for corporations to manipulate. For me, because of who the problems with the exam affects most, it is a Civil Rights issue that is not being seen that way. Not only are they flawed but the scoring rubrics are flawed as well. We just looked at our daughters June and August Algebra exams. She got a 54 and a 52 in them respectively. (She has special needs so she gets a local diploma with a 55) On the June exam there was a problem where she showed her work. She made 2 mistakes, one computational, and one flipping the axis in a histogram. She knew how to take a tally write a frequency chart and draw a histogram. Because of the rubric, she got a 0. Even point would have given her the pass. On the August exam, she had 2 problems with a similar situation, and received a 0. She showed work for all her problems and received 0 for most of them because of how hard it is to get even 1 point on the rubric. Is this a fair rubric, where a child does work, work that shows she understands the problem but makes mistakes and gets no credit at all? (I didn’t think she deserved full credit but I thought partial credit even 1 point was fairer.) Because they are flawed, children should nod suffer ill consequences from failure on these tests. If they’re worried about making kids college ready, release the CFE money and provide targeted resources to help kids reach being college ready. Testing kids and failing them does not make them college ready, it only limits their participation in the workplace. We can’t opt out because unlike kids in grades 3-8, there is a consequence if our kids don’t take the exam. Thank you for listening to what was probably my excessively long blog. Lenore

  3. As a retired Special Education teacher, it was always so painful to observe the unfair requirements of my students. For each of the 37 years I taught, there were always several students whom I knew, would never be able to pass even some of the rcts, but were considered too high functioning to be alternative assessment students. Yet, some of them displayed other abilities on a normal or above normal level basis in mechanics, music, childcare and sports. You’re dooming them to a life of minimum wage jobs, if you refuse to find a way to assess their strong abilities and provide career paths for them. In the long run, the government will have to provide financial assistance to help them survive, when it might not be necessary if you give them viable alternatives in high school and afterwards.

  4. I have a child that has spergers and has been struggling with math and writting focusing.And went through a bad experience since she was 6 years old .In a Catholic school.Yet i turned arouned and homeschool for one year.I deceiced to put her in public school.This is her last year and i thank this school .For all that they helped me with my daughter.The assistant principal and counselor ot .Had helped me and teachers.I will miss this school Ps19 in Queens.Now she going to JR H.S and i am scare.They made not be nice .Please hep this kids .Don’t let them quit because of this test.I belive a kid needs how to read and addition and subtract and some social studies sports and music art baking acting dance singing theater and all sports.Stop making life difficult for humanity.Iwill fight to the end.To be heard .

  5. I am at my wits end right now. My daughter is severely dyslexic. She is a good student who tries very hard, she is actually a Junior taking up Cosmetology in high school right now and has a passion for it. She has passed 3 out of 5 NY Regents (Algebra, Global, US History) (her IEP states that all tests must be read to her) HOWEVER, she did not pass her English Language Arts Regents, this test is not allowed to be read to her because it is a reading comprehension test. So she sat there for close to 3 hours and got a 37, she did terribly on the multiple choice, she said she was so stressed that the words and letters were floating off the page. I am being told that if she does not Pass This Regents she will not get a Diploma. She is devastated and so am I . I feel this is so UNFAIR. It’s like asking someone who needs reading glasses to read without their glasses or take a test in a foreign language. They are actually going to give her an extra class for reading, not sure this is going to help. She is going to take the ELA regents again this June. I know their is an UPDATE just this month RE: Testing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners from THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, but need to know does this mean they will accommodate my daughter for the ELA Regents.

    • Is it permissible to scan a State exam into a software program (such as a text-to-speech
      program, voice recognition software) so the student can be administered the test
      through this program?
      This accommodation would be considered “revised format.” For State assessments, any
      reproduction and/or reformatting of test booklets require the advance written permission of
      the Office of State Assessment. A request to open the test earlier to make these changes
      needs to be submitted to the Office of State Assessment. The request must be faxed by the
      principal and must indicate that permission is needed to revise the format based on the
      student’s IEP/504 Plan. The fax number of the Office of State Assessment is (518) 474-1989.
      Any other features that a software program might have that would provide the student with
      information or assistance not permitted on State assessments (such as dictionaries, thesaurus,
      websites) must be disabled if the program is to be used for State assessments. Features such
      as use of spelling or grammar checkers would not have to be disabled if indicated in the
      student’s IEP/504 Plan as a testing accommodation and allowable on a particular State
      assessment. If not permitted in the IEP/504 Plan, these features must also be disabled.


      In addition, this is wrong. The only tests where read aloud cannot be offered is for the 3 to 8th grade assessments that specifically assess reading comprehension.

      Not Permitted by State Education Department Policy on State Assessments
      Testing modifications that alter the measurement of a construct, as determined by the
      Department, are not permitted on elementary and intermediate-level State assessments in ELA
      and mathematics. The Department policies prohibiting the use of certain testing modifications
      applies only to specific testing modifications due to their impact on specific portions of the
      elementary and intermediate ELA and mathematics State assessments. These policies do not
      to any content-specific assessments at the elementary and intermediate level such as
      science or social studies or to any State examinations at the secondary level.
      English Language Arts (Grades 3-8)
      The following testing modifications are not permitted on certain sections of the Grades 3-
      8 ELA test (the identification of the specific sections are provided in the School Administrator’s
      Manual and Teacher Directions for each test):
      • oral reading or signing of the portions of the test that measure reading skills;
      • use of spell or grammar checkers on portions of the tests measuring writing skills; and
      • deletion of spelling, paragraphing and punctuation requirements on portions of the
      tests measuring writing skills.

    • I have been lobbying the NY Bd of Regents about the Regents and Common Core. I have a made suggestions similar to yours and added shielding kids taking Regents from the negative consequences of the exams as kids in grades 3-8 are. I made a list of points supporting my suggestions with research and statements from respectable experts in the field. Besides questioning if the exams are valid, I refer to a steady demonstrating that the best predictor of college performance is high school grade point average. I have material demonstrating the best predictor of test scores are demographic issues, the questions are confusing but are no higher on the complexity of thought level than previous tests, and that they clearly discriminate against, Black, Hispanic, ELL and Students with Special Needs. If you want to see this extensive material (I have already sent it to Bd of Regents members and our Assemblyman) If you wish to see the material, please let me know. I have a 17 year old daughter with special needs who is having a terrible time with the Regents.
      Lenore Grandizio

      • this is a summary of the points I make in a 30 page document that includes excerpts from research and experts that support the suggestions I made. I sent this to many of the Board of Regents members and my Assemblyman Dan O’Donnell. Numbers at the end indicate pages in the longer document where the point is fully explained. I would send you the longer document but I don’t know how to email this to you and it’s too long to be posted.
        For details on any topic listed here, refer to the page number in the accompanying document, “PROBLEMS WITH COMMON CORE.”

        A Common Core Algebra One and Common Core English tests seemed harder because of poorly written and hard to understand questions. The scale used to convert raw scores to scaled scores can be manipulated (and has been) by the state to demonstrate the results they want. Common Core tests are hardly the objective measure of learning their creators claim. 3
        C STATE IGNORES THE TEST RE-TAKERS AND HAS NO PLAN FOR THEM. NYSED has paid no attention to the needs of children who have to take the test more than once because they didn’t pass (about 75,000 students). Common Core test grades 3-8 can predict likelihood a student will pass Common Core Regents. Student with Level 1 are not on track to pass Regents. 13
        D LACK OF RESEARCH ON COMMON CORE VALIDITY AND VALIDITY ON CAREER AND COLLEGE READY. Link between success in life and standardized tests is not particularly clear. No great correlation between high achievements in standardized tests and brilliance in the work place. The most successful individuals may well do better on other measures of achievement, for example, writing, journaling, verbal expression, creative productivity, and group interaction. In addition the best predictors of standardized test scores may be demographic data unrelated to test scores. A research study found that the much advertised depth of thinking in the common core is illusory. They found that the majority Common Core exams questions scored at lower levels of depth of thinking. quote from excerpt detailed n longer document.16
        G NAEP SCORES GONE DOWN SINCE REFORM, NOT UP. Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education under George W. Bush, and former board member at National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), discusses NAEP scores do not support the thesis that Common Core will raise children’s academic achievement. NAEP is the gold standard of evaluation of testing of educational progress. 21
        I The immediate implementation of Common Core Regents exams places an unfair burden on students who took classes in the respective subjects before Common Core was implemented, and must now be tested on material that was not part of the curriculum at the time they were in the associated classes. Students should be permitted to take Regents exams that include just material included in the curriculum at the time they took a class. Only students who took a subject after Common Core was implemented should be required to take Common Core Regents and also had an opportunity to have experience with the Common Core way of thinking in middle school. 27
        J Rushed implementation meant that Angelica started taking Common Core tests without having spent even one year being taught Common Core concepts, thus increasing her likelihood of failure. Common Core has been pushed through and the modules were not available for 9th grade math until Summer 2013. 30
        K Common Core Task Force admitted the Common Core implementation was rushed and flawed, but still requires Common Core-based tests for graduation. They shielded students and teachers in grades 3 to 8 from consequences of these poorly designed tests but did not shield high school students from the effects of the Regents. 33

    • Thank you for this, I don’t understand why my daughter’s teachers keep telling me that the ELA cannot be read to her even though her IEP states all tests should be read..I have an IEP meeting end of March and I am putting together all the facts…

      • The link to the manual is in my comment above and the text that I posted is directly from that manual.

      • The teachers don’t understand Questions can’t be read for any exam that tests reading comprehension like the English regents, ithey can be read for all other exams. Here is the link to the NYSED TEST ACCOMMODATIONS GUIDE PRINTED IN 2006 http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/policy/testaccess/policyguide.htm
        This is the link NYSED referred me to. My experience with an ignorant IEP team (I am a retired NYCDOE social worker and the parent of a daughter with an IEP) is that they tend to back down if you show them the documentation. ie the manual and specific sections that allow it. If that doesn’t work, file (not threaten) for an Impartial Hearing (you can always withdraw it) This will lead to a resolution hearing with an administrator or a supervisor who will want to give you what you want if it;s reasonable to avoid the huge cost of an Impartial Hearing. Hearing Officers only care about Federal Law and state regulations, they don’t care what the local policy is. If you have to go to an Impartial the law is on your side. While you’re going through all this trouble, you can look through the test mods and see what ever you may like.

        Accommodations in method of presentation change the way in which an assessment is presented to a student. These include

        · Revised test directions
        Ø Directions read to student
        Ø Directions reread for each page of questions
        Ø Language in directions simplified
        Ø Verbs in directions underlined or highlighted
        Ø Cues (e.g., arrows and stop signs) on answer form
        Ø Additional examples provided

        Use of aids or assistive technology devices
        Ø Audio tape
        Ø Computer (including talking word processor)
        Ø Listening section repeated more than the standard number of times
        Ø Listening section signed
        Ø Listening section signed more than the standard number of times
        Ø Masks or markers to maintain place
        Ø Papers secured to work area with tape/magnets
        Ø Test passages, questions, items and multiple-choice responses read to student
        Ø Test passages, questions, items and multiple-choice responses signed to student
        Ø Visual magnification devices (specify type)
        Ø Auditory amplification devices (specify type, e.g., FM system)
        Hope this helps. Good luck. I am currently locked in a fight with CSE on computer use.

      • Just to be clear, the guidelines expressly state that state secondary school exams can be read aloud, or use adaptive reading technology.

        I have posted links, etc all over the place. The ELA exam is not considered to be a reading comprehension exam, as it is a high stakes exit exam.

  6. Also, where can I find this information regarding reading ELA regents to students with IEPs. I need to refer this information to my daughter’s teachers..

  7. Here are the suggestions I sent to the Board of Regents and my Assemblyman.
    1) I am one of those who advocate for the replacement of Common Core and aligned tests with a set of developmentally appropriate standards that allows students to acquire essential knowledge and skills with enough flexibility to include other important areas like the arts and physical education. In my opinion, the current tests are badly designed in that the cut scores are set in a way that is easily manipulated. There is an achievement gap between White children and children of color, English Language Learners (“ELL’s”) and those with special needs. There is no evidence that the tests measure what they are purported to measure: college and career readiness. The best predictor of college performance is high school GPA.
    2) If giving up the Common Core and its related tests is deemed inappropriate or unrealistic, I suggest returning to the option of taking an alternate exam, such as the Regents Competency Test given for many years; a student who fails a Regents but passes an alternative exam would receive a local diploma. That option should minimally be available to children with special needs and ELL’s.
    3) In addition, I suggest expanding pathways to graduation by adding the option of a portfolio evaluation for students with special needs and ELL’s that would result in the awarding of a local diploma. Portfolios would allow children who do not show their skills well on tests to demonstrate their knowledge of the material in a way that is consistent with the principles of Universal Design for Learning. The current policy of allowing a lower pass score on a test with a higher reading level is not the same thing as having an alternate exam that provides a more realistic reflection of a student’s abilities. I know you have discussed portfolios as one of the multiple pathways to graduation and I support any move in that direction.
    I have concerns that in the pursuit of rigor, the rubrics will be rigid and allow scorers no discretion. Children with learning disabilities and language processing problems have difficulty expressing what they know or answering questions in a proscribed manner. If the scorer is trained to understand how to find the evidence in the portfolio that children with learning disabilities do know the material.
    4) Though concerns have been expressed that such adaptations may result in lowered standards, in fact there is no evidence that Common Core actually raises standards.
    a) It is not fair to have students earn all their credits for High School and then administer a “gotcha” test that a student fails, negating all the effort the student made in High School and not helping to reach the standards you wish to uphold.
    b) If you really want rigorous standards, then fund the schools more, mandate evidence-based techniques to help kids gain the knowledge, skills and critical thinking they need. In other words, don’t play “gotcha” with the kids but guarantee instead they have the ability to succeed.
    5) Return to having questions designed by teachers in New York State, as was done successfully for many years. Private vendor standardized tests have not shown any value added beyond the system of using teacher-designed questions, and the cost is very high. In addition, these tests have drawn criticism: questions are confusing, some reading passages are above grade level, among others.
    6) I suggest that the High School students who take Regents exams are included in the shield from the negative consequences of the test until 2020 that are already granted to children in grades 3 to 8.
    A High School diploma is a bare minimum requirement for 73% of jobs in today’s labor market. For workers lacking a High School diploma, the median wage is $25,376, an the $34,736 with a High School diploma; unemployment 9%, versus 6% for those with a diploma; a 50% increased likelihood of being unemployed. Such figures demonstrate why attainment of a High School diploma must not be made into an elitist pursuit.
    In support of the points made here, I make reference in footnotes to statements and data published by respected sources in, the field of education .
    Lenore Grandizio, LCSW

    Valerie Strauss, “New York’s Common Core test scores flop yet again — with 20 percent of students opting out”; Washington Post, August 13, 2015; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/08/13/n-y-common-core-test-scores-flop-yet-again/
    Lynn O’Shaughnessy, “Confirmed: High school GPAs predict college success”; CBS News, February 19, 2014; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/confirmed-high-school-gpas-predict-college-success/
    Wakefield, MA Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. CAST (2011); http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/principle2.
    Alice G. Walton, “The Science Of The Common Core: Experts Weigh In On Its Developmental Appropriateness”; Forbes magazine, October 23, 2014; http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/10/23/the-science-of-the-common-core-experts-weigh-in-on-its-developmental-appropriateness/.
    See also Christopher Tienken, “Predictable Results”; May 7, 2015; http://christienken.com/2015/05/07/predictable-results/,
    See also Dario Sforza, EdD, Eunyoung Kim, PhD, Christopher H. Tienken, EdD, “A Comparison of Higher-Order Thinking Between the Common Core State Standards and the 2009 New Jersey Content Standards in High School,” in AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, Vol. 12, No. 4 Winter 2016, p5; http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/JSPwinter_FINAL.v10Jan16.v3.pdf.
    Valerie Strauss, “A disturbing look at Common Core tests in New York,” Washington Post, June 27, 2014; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/27/a-disturbing-look-at-common-core-tests-in-new-york/, discussing Carol Burris and John Murphy, “On The Same Track: How Schools Can Join the Twenty-First-Century Struggle Against Resegregation.”
    US Department Of Labor, Bureau Of Labor Statistics, “Education Level and Jobs,” as of 2014; http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/article/education-level-and-jobs.htm

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