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October 20, 2014
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JP O'Hare

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Board Of Regents Approves New Graduation Options

New Pathways Will Better Prepare Students for College and Careers and Improve New York's Economic Competitiveness

The New York State Board of Regents today approved new options for students to meet the State’s high school graduation requirements. The new regulations establish multiple, comparably rigorous pathways to graduation, including pathways in Career and Technical Education (CTE); Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); the Arts; Biliteracy (languages other than English); and the Humanities. The new regulations also establish a two-year Global History and Geography course requirement and modify the design of the Global History and Geography Regents Exam.  Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said the goals of the new options are to improve the state’s 74.9 percent graduation rate, increase the percentage of students who graduate prepared for college and careers (currently 37.2 percent), and help prepare more students for success in the 21st century economy. 

Experts say CTE, the Arts, and other comparable programs motivate students to stay in school and help provide the skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and a variety of demanding, high-skill career paths. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2018 nearly half of all jobs created will require an Associate Degree or an occupational certificate. However, if current trends continue, New York will face a shortage of 350,000 employees for these skilled jobs by 2020, according to a report from America’s Edge.

“These new pathways to graduation will give students confidence, competence, and a real choice,” Chancellor Tisch said. “All students deserve an education that prepares them for success in college, careers, and life. Today’s action by the Board of Regents will encourage students to pursue CTE programs that can give them the skills and knowledge they need in our changing economy.  They will also encourage school districts to expand and invest in high-quality programs in career and technical education, the Arts, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), humanities, and languages other than English (LOTE), while ensuring that students are still held to challenging, rigorous standards.”

“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.

“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).”

A video highlighting several multiple pathways programs can be found at:

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).  

Strong Support for Multiple Pathways from Key Stakeholders

“By ensuring that all our students graduate high school ready for college and meaningful careers, we are putting them – and our state – on the path to a bright future,” said New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.  “Today’s announcement represents an important step forward: a commitment to high-quality education and expanding opportunities for our students to develop and earn recognition for their valuable strengths and skills. We are dedicated to providing rigorous instruction, increasing internship opportunities, helping students obtain industry-recognized credentials, expanding our CTE programs and ongoing collaboration with external partners. We are broadening our efforts across the City to ensure we are preparing our students for college as well as the jobs of today and tomorrow, and these new graduation standards reflect that goal.”

“This alternative pathway to graduation has the potential to greatly benefit students by boosting college- and career-readiness and increasing student engagement. This option gives students added flexibility to develop the 21st century skills required in today’s workforce,” said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association.

“Career and Technical Education has proven its value, giving students opportunities to put their learning in a practical context and often leading to better outcomes than traditional academic programs. The flexibility proposed in the Regents’ action will enable schools to help more students benefit from high quality CTE programs,” said Robert J. Reidy, Jr., Executive Director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

“The Regents’ decision to place more importance on tests of technical skills – which are typically more difficult than tests in many other subjects --has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of young people, helping them build solid careers and at the same time contribute to New York State’s economic health,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. 

"Despite recent gains in our education system, we still have a long way to go before the majority of graduating high schoolers are ready for a job or college.  Career-oriented studies are a smart way to give students a practical skill set as they prepare to enter the workforce or the next phase of their education. The business community fully supports the actions of the Regents today," said Partnership for New York City President and CEO Kathryn Wylde.

“In May, The Business Council Board of Directors unanimously agreed to support a career and technical education pathway that preserves high educational standards aligned with industry need and emphasizes meeting labor market needs, particularly in STEM fields. We commend the board for recognizing the urgency in offering students robust, alternative pathways,” said Heather C. Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

It is anticipated that the regulations will be presented for permanent adoption by the Board of Regents at their meeting in January 2015. The Regents Item, including the draft regulations, is available at:


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