Vocational Skills Could Count Toward Diploma in New York

Home / Educational Articles / Vocational Skills Could Count Toward Diploma in New York

Vocational Skills Could Count Toward Diploma in New York

The New York State Board of Regents gave initial approval to a major change to high school graduation requirements on Monday, allowing students to earn their diplomas with one fewer test if they pass another assessment in a range of subjects like languages, the arts, hospitality management and carpentry.

Students have had to pass five tests, one each in English, math and science, and two in social studies. The new requirements would make the second social studies exam optional, allowing students to take an approved alternative test in its place.

“The idea is really to ensure we have a system that honors students’ passions about different areas of study,” said John B. King, that state’s education commissioner. “We’ve got a significant chunk of students who aren’t finishing, and there’s an opportunity here to make high school a more compelling place for them.”

This shift, described by state officials as creating “multiple pathways” to graduation, has been in the works for several years and is the latest in a series of changes made to state requirements over the last decade. Beginning with freshmen in 2005, the state started phasing in a new threshold for the Regents exams, raising the passing scores to 65 from 55 for all five required tests. Despite that shift, graduation rates have risen to 74.9 for those who started as freshmen in 2009, the most recent year available, from 65.8 percent statewide for students who began high school in 2001.

Under the new guidelines, there are a variety of alternatives to the second social studies test. Students can opt to take an additional humanities exam, for example, or a second one in math, but the greater shift would allow them to substitute one of 13 approved vocational assessments, including agricultural mechanics, accounting and other areas designed to prepare students for the job market. (Students will still have to pass social studies classes to graduate.)

“It’s really broadening the definition of success,” said Rashid Ferrod Davis, principal of P-Tech, a six-year technology vocational school in Brooklyn, from which each student graduates with a diploma and an associate degree. “Our students are global citizens,” he said, and the new changes are “raising the standards beyond what’s required locally and preparing them for what’s required globally.”

While a central tenet of the vocational programs — now called Career and Technical Education — is helping students who are ready for a career graduate, state officials denied that the new standards were just making it easier for students to graduate. They stressed that each approved assessment was deemed at least as rigorous as the current Regents exam options, and that all students would be taught in accordance with the new curriculum standards known as the Common Core.

But there were some on Monday who were concerned about the perception. Deno Charalambous, principal of Aviation High School, a C.T.E. program in Queens, said that even if the alternative exams are just as tough as the social studies tests, it will be difficult to convince people that the C.T.E. students are not taking an easier ride.

“A lot of people are going to perceive it as being a little easier to graduate, Ms. Charalambous said. “That’s not what you want.”

Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of Regents, said the changes were designed to have the opposite effect, to elevate and expand vocational programs.

“Vocational education is what used to be, and we know that those programs no longer prepare kids for jobs that are life sustaining, in which someone can have a career into the future and support a family,” Ms. Tisch said. The new rules, she continued are “saying that we want to invest in those C.T.E. programs that align with jobs that are being created today and tomorrow.”

The changes have a period of public comment and then will be voted on again by the Board of Regents in January. If approved, students could take the new assessments this school year.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search