Response to Memo on Expanded Pathways to Graduation

NYSED published their recent memo on expanded pathways to graduation.
The Regents will be discussing this during their webcast on Monday morning.  A revision to the memo will be posted during the week, any actions the Regents are prepared to take will be subject to a comment period.  The comment period and email address will be posted in the NYS Register the first Wednesday in February.
As always, the comments below are available to be copied and used in whole or in part for comments to the Regents and/or NYSED.
Thank you for listening to the concerned parents of NYS on the issues of students with disabilities being able to earn a high school diploma.   There is still much work to be done but we are cautiously optimistic.

Below are the collective thoughts of concerned parents in NYS on the options addressed in the memo on Enhanced Pathways to Graduation.

Option #1 the Appeal Criteria – if the waiver option is lowered to 60 for GenEd students, then please raise the point that it needs to be lowered to 50 for Special Education students.  There should also be more flexibility in the waiver process for ELL students.    The concern is that, while this would allow 4,000 students to graduate, it still is not enough to address the needs of many capable students who are differently abled and fall under the category of Special Education.
NYers are very much aware that the grading matrix (cut scores) for the Regents exams is a political manipulation. Ideally, the Regents exams should be restored to a 100 point system and the requirement of passing five Regents exams in order to graduate should be removed.
Option #2  Opening the CDOS to the entire student population is a step in the right direction but adding it to the 4 + 1 will not help students with dyslexia who will not make it through an ELA regents exam.    That is not to say that these students could not be engaged in the material on an ELA regents exam in a class discussion, video presentation or other venue.  Please keep in mind how much more complex reading is now on an ELA Common Core aligned Regents exam.  Many parents are advocating that the CDOS be recognized as a local diploma on its own, provided the students are capable of completing the required Regents classwork (less exams) and the required 22 credits.
Please keep in mind that the current model does allow for lazy but academically gifted students to graduate with less effort than hard working students with special education needs/learning disabilities.   Yes, we want to raise expectations for each child, but setting the same standards for each child does not meet that goal.
Option #3 Project based assessments –  This is the path that would provide the most flexibility for students across all populations.    Automotive HS, as an example, graduation should be based on performance based assessments in mechanics.    Yes, these students should still receive a well rounded education in Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies and Art, but their career readiness should be measured by skills in mechanics, logistics of running a business and business math.
Further on Project Based Assessments “Administration of PBA in a computerized and supervised testing situation” would subject our children to data-mining and tracking that parents in NY have already pushed back against.    Our vision is for our differently abled children to be challenged in areas of strength.  NYSED’s vision is to have our differently abled children spend hours on end trying to meet standards in a Computer Based Testing environment where every key stroke is tracked.    This is not an enriched education.
“If the Board of Regents supports the development of Project Based Assessments, there are additional policy decisions which need to be discussed at a future date, such as how many times a student must attempt to pass a Regents exam prior to the option of the PBA, and to identify the other conditions, if any, that must be met prior to a student having the option to take a PBA (e.g., attendance; passing grades). Additional resources will be necessary to implement PBAs across the State. “
NYS parents have grave concerns over the continued push by NYSED to determine an individual student’s needs and abilities from a distance.   NYS parents of special education students want an end to the test and punish cycle.  Setting policy on how many times a students has to fail a Regents exam will prolong it.  We do not need the state to force our children into a cycle of failure.   It is unfortunate enough for these students that the USDOE will push for them to be tested once in ELA, Math and Science.  There is no need to mandate a specific number of times.
 At the high school level, testing will still exist for all students under ESSA, at least for Math, ELA and Science.    It is imperative that NYSED stop scheduling Regents exams so that special education students are tested up to 12 hours in a single day.  Yes, there is a waiver process to start both exams on one day and finish the next day, however very few people are aware of the waiver even though it has been in place for years.  It is also a disruptive testing process as students may need to refer back to material on a part of the test that is no longer available to them on the second day.  Algebra 1, Global History and Geography, ELA, US History need to be scheduled on four different days.  Earth Science and Living Environment should be scheduled on a fifth and sixth day.
The math standards for high school do need to be restored to sequential, linear standards.  The current standards for HS, that are aligned with Common Core, are disjointed and confusing for students.  We have found topic areas where Algebra 2 standards are addressed prior to Algebra 1 standards.  Please see this petition for more thoughts on HS math standards.
Thank you all for your support in this effort to properly align graduation, college and career readiness skills with a student’s passions and strengths.   I had hoped to attend this week’s Regents meeting, but am unable to travel on Monday.  Rest assured, I will be watching the webcast.
Christine Zirkelbach
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