Calling it a long overdue step in the right direction, NYSUT voiced strong support for the Regents' plan to create a number of new pathways to graduation for students in Career and Technical Education (CTE), Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), humanities and the arts.
The Regents gave initial approval to the major change in high school graduation requirements in October, with final approval expected in January. The option, which would allow students to replace one of the history or science exams with a comparably rigorous alternate assessment, would apply beginning with CTE students in June.
"These new requirements create an important and exciting new pathway to graduation. Yet there is more to be done," said NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino. "There must be a greater investment of state funding and more support for CTE program development in order to make these new pathways a reality."
NYSUT was ahead on this issue, publishing a "white paper" earlier this year that contained key recommendations as a result of the work of a NYSUT CTE Task Force.
The recommendations included the "4+1" plan the Regents embraced. Until now, graduating students have had to pass five Regents tests, one each in English, math and science, and two in social studies.
The new regulations would allow students to get a Regents diploma by replacing one of the history or science exams with a comparably rigorous technical, arts or other SED-approved assessment for the fifth examination. While not all the options are yet available, an SED panel has identified 13 CTE exams that could serve as an alternative.
Fortino noted students will still be required to take and pass four years of social studies, including two years of global history, one year of U.S. history and a semester each of participation in government and economics.
Regent James Tallon, who chairs the board's state aid committee, said the Legislature would need to increase funding to school districts for CTE programs in order to make the "4+1" program work.
"It's important that we understand this is a huge step," he said. "There are big implementation challenges, and we are going to have to work collectively to get it done."
In the next legislative session, NYSUT will make the case for new state aid formulas that will boost BOCES and special services aid for the Big Five city school districts to expand CTE programming.
State Education Commissioner John King expressed support for NYSUT-backed legislation to lift the state salary reimbursement for BOCES teachers. The cap, which has remained at $30,000 since 1991, discourages districts from sending students to BOCES because state aid doesn't cover the full cost.
Fortino said more general state aid will also be needed, noting half of all schools still receive less from the state than they did six years ago.
Aside from expanding CTE programs and improving access, Fortino said it's important for schools to begin discussions with students about career exploration much earlier — well before high school. In addition, CTE programs should be strategically focused on the ever-changing workforce needs and job growth.
How 4+1 would work
Under the anticipated new pathways, students in the humanities, CTE, STEM, biliteracy and the arts would be able to take one of the following assessments in place of the fifth exam (social studies or science) currently required for graduation:
- One additional social studies Regents exam or SED-approved humanities alternative; or
- One additional Regents exam in a different course in mathematics or science or an SED-approved alternative (STEM); or
A pathway assessment in a Language Other Than English (LOTE) approved by the commissioner; or
A Career and Technical Education pathway assessment approved by the commissioner, following successful completion of an approved CTE program. So far, 13 exams have been recommended for use; or
An arts pathway assessment approved by the commissioner. (A blue ribbon panel on the arts will recommend assessments).
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
The public is invited to submit comments on the pathways plan through Dec. 20. Data, views or arguments may be submitted to: Cosimo Tangorra Jr., Deputy Commissioner, State Education Department, Office of P-12 Education, State Education Building, 2M West, 89 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12234; call 518-474-5520 or email NYSEDP12@mail.nysed.gov.