NYSED Mixed Messages on the CDOS

“Students with special needs are also eligible for a Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential, which recognizes his or her preparation and skills for post-school employment.

Students exiting high school with the CDOS credential would be considered “high school completers,” and would not be included in graduation or drop-out counts, said Jonathan Burman, an Education Department spokesman. This option began with the 2013-14 school year.”

The above is a direct quote from NYSED posted in this article in lohud.com this past May.


This is a pretty clear cut example of “spin” out of NYSED because we no longer get straight answers from that department.

If you are not a high school graduate, and you are no longer in high school, and do not have a diploma, then what are you? How do you answer that question on an on-line job application?

wal-mart job app

And more spin from NYSED:

“Students who are unable to earn a regular diploma because of their disability may graduate with the NYS CDOS Commencement Credential as the student’s only exiting credential”

This is a bold face lie. The students who only earn a CDOS are not “graduates” according to NYSED’s own regulations. NYSED states that they are eligible to stay in school until 21 in order to pass the Regents and earn a diploma.

“If the NYS CDOS Commencement Credential is the student’s only exiting credential and he/she is less than 21 years of age, the parent must be provided prior written notice indicating that the student continues to be eligible for a free appropriate public education until the end of the school year in which he/she turns age 21″.


So, graduate, not graduate, sounds like “not graduate” to me.  From my close reading of the CDOS memo from NYSED, I think they are trying to confuse parents and students.

Here is something that I noticed yesterday.  Below are screen shots of graduation statistics that I pulled from NYSEDs own report from January.  I pulled the one from West Hempstead in February, I pulled Smithtown this week.  Note that CDOS was not listed on West Hempstead, but is now listed on Smithtown.  So, CDOS has been added, in conjunction with the IEP diploma, which is defunct as of the cohort of 2011.  In the same Regents meeting in January, where this report was discussed, Meryll Tisch dismissed parents concerns about graduation requirements for SPED students by saying that “the IEP diploma wasn’t anything anyway”.  First, I am so sorry I never thought to get a screen shot of that statement because the meetings are close captioned. Second, it shows Tisch’s total lack of understanding for what the Board of Regents has done under her Chancellorship.

west hempsteadsmithtown

Finally, posted on August 26, 2014 on the link listed below:


“A model certificate for award of the New York State (NYS) Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential is now available. Each school district is responsible for developing a certificate at the local level that is similar in form to the district diploma. The certificate must not use the term “diploma” and it must indicate that the NYS CDOS Commencement Credential is endorsed by the NYS Board of Regents as a certificate of readiness for entry level employment.”

The certificate must not use the term “diploma”, so clearly not “graduation”.

I was in a conversation with a parent who was sure that the child was all set to graduate because the child passed one Regents exam and there was not a requirement to pass additional Regents exams.   That is not the criteria for a diploma, but it does meet the criteria for a student to be eligible to earn a CDOS.  This parent, now confused and angry, has to wait until the end of August to get clarification from the school district.

There are parents and students who do opt to take the CDOS option over struggling through 5 Regents, and there is validity to that.  I hear story after story of SPED students struggling to pass 5 Regents, even with the 55 safety net, taking Regents as many as five times before calling it quits, thinking maybe they can pass the GED (the new version, the TASC as an 80% fail rate). But, the CDOS, if done correctly, could be a valid path to a valid technical or vocational diploma.

Action items:   Call your legislators, call your Regent.  Talk to other parents, organize a meeting in your school district, or organize a meeting with a neighboring school district.  Let NYSED know that the CDOS, as it stands now, is an unfair and confusing credential.


CDOS awakening in State Island

Over the summer, I was part of a team across New York State collecting signatures for the Stop Common Core ballot line in New York State.  A few in the five boroughs struggled, too many people in New York City are just unaware of the impact of Common Core and the unending testing that goes along with it.

It looks like that is starting to change.  The meeting was scheduled for 9 AM on a work day, a tactic often used to make sure the masses cannot attend, but it happened, and people were there to complain for a two hour session.


One of the biggest marketing points of Common Core is to make students “College and Career Ready”.  Unfortunately, the NYSED and the Board of Regents made earning a diploma much harder for special education students.  Now, in order to earn any diploma, a student has to pass five regents, one math, one science, ELA, US History, and Global History and Geography.  There are some accommodations, a 55 score and the ability to power points from one exam to another, but students still need five regents.  The class of 2015 now has to

1) deal with a whole new, convoluted way of teaching;

2) students who were already trying to pass regents for the last three school years

3) tests that are poorly worded (ELA sample test questions with ambiguous wording)

4) an Common core aligned Algebra 1 test with a cut score of 33

I reiterate these points because the politicians in attendance may be listening, but still need to be clear on what the problem is.

“There should be something in place for students,” agreed Assemblyman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore).

State Senator Andrew Lanza (R-South Shore) proposed offering incentives to businesses who hire special ed graduates for “meaningful” positions. “We need to refocus, to take a broader look at skill sets, and maybe offer incentives to employees to hire,” he said.

Will all due respect to State Senator Lanza and Assemblyman Joe Borelli, the immediate need for these students is to not “put something in place” or “offer incentives to businesses”.  The immediate need is to remove high stakes testing as the sole means to earn a diploma in New York State.

Open Letter to the Members of the Board of Regents on CDOS

Members of the Board of Regents,

The unintended consequence of the regulations for a CDOS and the changes to the requirements for receiving a local diploma is that a significant number of students who are challenged academically, but able to complete the required course work, will face many more obstacles in life then they would had they been able to earn a local diploma with the Regents Competency Tests.
First, a student who is issued a CDOS, and no diploma, is marked as a special needs student, which violates the student’s right to privacy and confidentiality.
Second, a CDOS is currently not recognized as a valid credential for admission to college, trade school, the military, civil service or the federal government.  Currently, there is no reference to a CDOS on the New York State Department of Labor web site.
Third, by creating an NYS only high school credential, NY students are barred from applying for jobs in states that would not recognize a CDOS as anything.
I ask that you bring these issues to the Board of Regents meeting on Monday.
Four percent of my school district’s class of 2015 will only qualify for a CDOS under the current regulations implemented by the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department.
These students are capable of passing the classwork and earning the required credits but are barred from earning a diploma because of their inability to pass a standard regents exam.
Their options are to either remain in school until they are 21, placing an additional burden on the school district, or to be coded as a drop out after completing four years of high school.
This is happening in every school district in New York State.
It has been well documented in the press that there have been issues with the new tests aligned with the Common Core curriculum.
According to the NYSED answer key for the ELA regents, it is 72 pages long.   How difficult do  the Members of the Board of Regents need to make it for these students to earn a basic diploma?
I look forward to your response.
Christine Zirkelbach

CDOS Continued

I put together a quick explanation of CDOS, (Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential), a challenge as the person I spoke to at NYSED provided information that was inconsistent with the information provided by a Special Education teacher in my school district.


The CDOC program is another example of the NYS Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department believing that all students can be fit into the same mold and will meet the same standards because the teachers and the school district should be able to have all students meet the same criteria.

Many years ago, students would earn a local diploma if they passed all the course work, but did not pass all the required regents exams.  More recently, students (more specifically, student with an IEP) could earn a local diploma if they passed the required course work, earned at least 22 credits, and could pass a combination of 5 Regents or 5 Regents Competency Tests.

Students entering the 9th grade as of 2011 will no longer have the option of the Regents Competency Tests.  They must take Regents exams, earn at least a 55 on them in ELA, Math, US History, Global History and Science.  There is a Compensatory Safety Net option, but I have received a few explanations on this option.  It has something to do with you can substitute a 45 on some Regents if you get a 65 on ELA and Math.

That puts most of these students in the 11th grade,  which means they are probably taking both the 2005 Standards English Regents and the English Common Core Regents per this memo from NYSED.


I believe we are all familiar with the problems with the Common Core aligned testing to date.  The sample exam is 42 pages.


I am not able to obtain a sample of the CCSS ELA regents, but the scoring key indicates it is 78 pages long.  http://www.nysedregents.org/hsela/

So, students who may not fully comprehend Shakespeare, or be able to plow through a treatise on “The Formation of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project” will now never get a diploma.  Passed the coursework?  Sorry, not good enough.  You are not college and career ready so no more local diploma.

The math regents? It has been reported that  students with out IEPs who took the Algebra 1 Common Core regents can pass with a 33.  It was reported to be difficult.  A contraband copy was posted and I will append if I can find it, but I did find this blog.  http://mrburkemath.blogspot.com/2014/06/june-2014-common-core-algebra-1-regents.html

If anything, the math regents should not be intentionally tricky.

So, what does a CDOS mean to the average person?  Well, there are a number of unknowns.  It is not a diploma, so students who can only earn a CDOS are not counted as a 4 year graduate.  They can remain in school until they are 21, to keep trying to pass those pesky Common Core regents.  At an average cost of  $18,825 in New York State, that puts an additional burden on a school district of $56,475 per student, should a student opt to stay for three years.  My unofficial survey indicates that several school districts will end up with about 4% of the student population  falling into the CDOS rabbit hole.  Class size varies greatly from school to school, so lets say we have a school with a population of 2,000, with 500 students per class.  If 4% only qualify for a CDOS, that will add 20 extra students to the population, who could have received a local diploma only a couple of years ago.  And, that adds $376,500 for the school budget.

And, where does this student go?  Is a CDOS recognized by other states or the federal government as a valid credential?  I could not find any reference to a CDOS on the NYS Labor Department site.

Try and find a job without a high school diploma?  Would you like fries with that?

Part of the reason for unions and the civil service was to provide living wage jobs and benefits to those who are not strong academically, but want a good job and are willing to work.  There is no accommodation for a CDOS in this scenario.

The Board of Regents has put students with disabilities, learning differences, academic challenges, whatever you would like to call it, in a box with no options.  The unintended consequences?  Higher welfare rolls?  More unemployment?   Higher school budgets?  More High school dropouts?

Maybe, the Board of Regents will finally listen to the people of New York State and fix this before it is too late.






Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential

The New York State Regents are not able to point the finger at any other group for this particular education reform issue under the Common Core umbrella.  The Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential is supposed to be an “important new exiting credential for students with disabilities.”  In reality, it is a door slam in the face.  What the Regents fail to grasp is that there are so many different types of disabilities.  The CDOS ends up being a door shut in the face of about 4% of students in school districts as per parents and teachers that I have talked to since Common Sense Lobby Day.  It is in full effect for students finishing school in 2015.




The New York State Board of Regents now requires 5 Regents for a local diploma (regardless of disability).   A passing grade of 65 per one conversation with NYSED and 55 per another conversation with a Special Ed teacher is required for Math and ELA.  A passing grade of 55 is required  for Global, US History and Science. (There is a convoluted Compensatory Safety Net of a 45 pass for Global, US History and Science of which I have received different explanations).*

A Regents diploma still requires passing 5 Regents exams with a 65 or better.

The New York State Board of Regents has eliminated the Regency Competency Tests, which were acceptable for a local diploma.  These exams used easier language and asked basic, straight-forward questions.

If a student, for whatever reason, cannot pass the required Regents (Math, US History, Global History, ELA, Science) then they cannot earn a diploma, even if they have the required number of credits (22).

A student can earn a CDOS in conjunction with a Regents diploma, but if they cannot pass the required Regents exams they will only earn a CDOS as of enrollment in 9th grade in 2011.

As of now, it is unclear as to whether a CDOS would be recognized for any type of employment, civil service. college, trade school, or for anything outside of New York State.  The Board of Regents says they recognize it for eligibility for employment but I was unable to find any information on the NYS Department of Labor regarding CDOS.

If you can only earn a CDOS, students, regardless of disability, are eligible for a free appropriate public education until they are 21.  According to one source, students who only earn a CDOS will be counted as drop outs, even if they have completed all other course work and earned 22 credits.  This may actually be that they will not be counted in the 4 year graduation rate.

*updated from the original post

Field Testing…. sigh

One of the things that the New York State Education Department has tried very hard to keep under wraps is the field testing that goes on in the 3rd through 8th grades.

Field tests came about in the last few years because Pearson, the corporation that designs the Common Core aligned assessments for New York State, had a few problems when designing tests for the new standards.  They needed questions to test the material covered in the new standards.

The traditional way to introduce new questions was to embed them into current exams, but not score them.  Common Core standards created a demand for far more questions than they can test on a standard assessment.

The solution to this problem was to develop field tests and work with NYSED to give these field tests to New York State students during school.

Yes, that’s right, after months of test prep and as much as 18 hours dedicated to testing, New York State endorsed and aided Pearson, a for-profit company, to administer practice tests to help Pearson develop its work product at taxpayer expense, and with out parental permission.

Children are working to design the tests Pearson will be selling to New York during the school day.

Test refusal can be a difficult decision, but if we are going to get the government and the businesses driving education reform to understand that this is not acceptable, then the parents and students must refuse to take the field tests.

John King,Commissioner, NYSED, and his ilk, will make case that the field tests are needed to that NYSED can set benchmarks and cut scores.  Please remember last year’s test, and that 70% failure rate that was determined by setting the benchmarks and cut scores to produce a 70% failure rate.

Pearson and NYSED already anticipate at 10% refusal rate and are giving the tests to over 350,000 students in over 3000 districts.

Stop this cold!

Stand up for children’s education!

Refuse the field tests!

And, just to put things in perspective, there are companies that arrange focus groups made up of children and there is compensation for their work,

Not free, not condoned by the government.