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New diploma options for student career paths; CTE, STEM or Arts

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
"We see this CTE pathway, STEM pathway, Art pathway as another tool in a tool box."

The New York State Board of Regents has cleared the way for a new career pathways for high school students aimed at improving graduation rates. 

The Board of Regents approved new options for students to meet the State’s high school graduation requirements. 


Under the new regulations, multiple pathways are offered to graduation.  This includes Career and Technical Education (CTE); Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); the Arts; Biliteracy (languages other than English); and the Humanities.  Regents Chancellor Merryl Tish said the goals for the new regulations are to improve the state's 74.9 percent graduation rate.       


“These new pathways to graduation will give students confidence, competence, and a real choice,” Chancellor Tisch said. "We see this CTE pathway, STEM pathway, Art pathway as another tool in a tool box."                             


Tisch and State Education Commissioner John King held a briefing from Albany with reporters Monday.     


“It’s no secret that the U.S. lags behind some of our international competitors when it comes to preparing our students for the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow,” said State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. “But New York must lead the way; we can and we will educate our way to the top. And the Regents’ action will help make that possible – by providing challenging new options that will give our students the skills and the knowledge they need to excel in college and in the workplace.


WBFO News spoke with Erie 1 BOCES, which already provides vocational training to school students. It boosts a more than 95% graduation rate.  Christa McHale is Associate Director Career and Technical Education.

"It's been a long time coming. It's something we have been keeping an eye on," stated McHale. 

McHale notes this decision validates the long-time work of BOCES.  "Everything that we do is so pragmatic and proactive. It's really interesting to see the unique opportunities that students have to really put that knowledge to work in a meaningful way."


Melody Jason is the executive director of Instructional Services. "This is not your grandmother's BOCES," said Jason.  "It allows them to be more engaged in their education."


"These new regulations preserve the rigor of New York’s graduation requirements while at the same time offering students comparably rigorous options that keep them engaged in school and learning.  More options today mean more career opportunities later. That’s how you prepare students to compete in the new global economy.  Going forward, we must work to ensure that all students – regardless of the region of the state or the wealth of the district – have access to a rich array of course opportunities in the humanities, the STEM fields, the Arts, Career and Technical Education, and languages other than English (LOTE)," said Commissioner King.

Chancellor Tisch stressed that students would still be required to pass American and Global history courses and the Common Core. 


The following is information provided by the New York State Education Department explaining the current Regents requirements and the new changes:


Pathways to Graduation


Currently, students are required to pass five Regents exams in high school in order to graduate – one each in English, science, math, as well as the U.S History and the Global Studies and Geography exams.  The regulations advanced today include a “4+1” option that permits a student to take four Regents exams and a comparably rigorous technical, arts, or other assessment for the fifth examination required for graduation. The 4+1 option would apply beginning with students who first entered ninth grade in or after September 2011 and thereafter or who are otherwise eligible to receive a high school diploma in June 2015 and thereafter and have passed four required Regents exams (or Department-approved alternative assessments) in English, mathematics, science and social studies.


The regulations create graduation pathways in the Humanities, STEM, Biliteracy, CTE, and the Arts; students pursuing any of these pathways must pass one of the following assessments in place of the fifth assessment currently required for graduation:


•        One additional social studies Regents exam or Department-approved alternative (Humanities Pathway); or

•        One additional Regents exam in a different course in mathematics or science or a Department-approved alternative (STEM Pathway); or

•        A pathway assessment in a Language Other Than English (LOTE) approved by the Commissioner (which could include a Biliteracy Pathway); or

•        A career and technical education pathway assessment approved by the Commissioner, following successful completion of an approved CTE program (CTE Pathway); or      

•        An arts pathway assessment approved by the Commissioner (Arts Pathway)


To ensure that pathway assessments are of sufficient rigor, validity and reliability, the regulations establish the conditions and criteria by which these assessments may be approved by the Commissioner.


A CTE assessment that meets the approved alternative requirements for Science can be substituted for the required Science Regents exam.


Social Studies


Current regulations require high school students to pass the Regents exam in global history and geography; the regulations do not, however, require students to take the course of study that precedes that examination. The new regulations will require all students first entering ninth grade in or after September 2016 to earn four units (years) of credit in social studies, including two units of credit in global history and geography, in addition to the current requirements of one unit of credit in U.S. history, one half unit of credit in participation in government, and one half unit of credit in economics (or their equivalent).  


State Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo issued a statement thanking the Board of Regents the change:


“I thank the state Board of Regents for approving a new Career and Technical Education option for students across our state. Students in New York need more options to find success, and today’s action by the Board of Regents will ensure that students in our state will have a new way to graduate with a Regents diploma and find a successful career. Not all students want to follow the traditional path of a four-year college. The CTE option will help to improve graduation rates by giving these students the opportunity to discover a pathway to a career that works for them.”


The leader of the state's teachers union is pleased with this chance.  New York State United Teachers is expressing "strong support for new pathways to graduation" for students in the arts, humanities, STEM and Career and Technical Education.  NYSUT is calling it a "long overdue step in the right direction."

“Providing additional pathways to a high school diploma for all students, including those in CTE programs, is the right move,” said NYSUT President Karen E. agee, who noted the 4:1 option was recommended by a NYSUT report, Unlocking New Futures for New York’s High School Graduates. “The Regents and state Education Department deserve credit for listening to educators and providing flexibility to students, even as they uphold high standards and strengthen and advance CTE education and other disciplines.”