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State Regents vote to expand diploma options for special education students

The New York State Board of Regents this week voted to expand options for special education students who struggle with academic exams. 

The Regents adopted regulations to expand the criteria under which students with disabilities may be eligible to graduate high school with a local diploma. That is a high school diploma that has different requirements from those needed to get a Regents Diploma.

State Education Department officials say that some students with disabilities are unable to demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests even with certain accommodations.

With the changes, students would no longer need to earn minimum scores on state Regents exams in English and Math. However, they would still need to meet certain conditions.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan supports the new regulations.

“It’s important that all students be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they have met the state’s rigorous academic standards,” says the Elma Republican.  “Allowing students with disabilities more flexibility to prove proficiency and earn their diploma will open the door to new possibilities in their lives.”

Former Fairport School District Superintendent Bill Cala, who has followed this and related issues over the years, says that while the final regulations are not available yet, this is a promising development. 

“I think it’s a great start for alternative pathways and I think it’s the first time in any memory that the state is permitting a diploma, the gaining of a diploma without high stakes tests, so I think it’s a good thing,” Cala says.

Cala has been critical of standardized tests in New York and hopes the Regents’ action this week will open the door to providing alternatives for other students, not only those with disabilities, who have difficulty taking certain exams.  

“Hopefully this is opening the door because it can’t just be special needs kids, because there are others who have deficits in other areas that may not be special needs and for some reason or another just can’t pass one of the five tests.”

Cala says he would still like to see what the final regulations are that are adopted by the state since those details can sometimes change after the initial action by the Regents.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
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