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June 14, 2016
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JP O'Hare

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Regents Expand Diploma Opportunities for Students with Disabilities; Action Continues Efforts to Provide Multiple Pathways to Graduation

Video and Audio of Commissioner Elia Available for Download



The New York State Board of Regents today adopted new rules that allow certain students with disabilities to meet the academic requirements to earn a Local Diploma without passing every Regents exam that is otherwise required for graduation. The rules become effective on June 20, making it possible for students with disabilities who are otherwise eligible to graduate, to do so later this month. School superintendents are now required to determine, at the local level, if a student with a disability is eligible for graduation.

“The Regents and I are determined to provide multiple pathways to graduation for all of our students,” said Board of Regents Chancellor, Betty A. Rosa. “Most students with disabilities can meet the state’s learning standards for graduation – so we want to be certain we give them every opportunity to demonstrate their ability.”  

“It’s essential that we continue to have high expectations for all students,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “The rules adopted today maintain the rigor of our graduation requirements, while providing a new mechanism for students with disabilities to demonstrate they have met the State’s graduation standards.”

There are some students who, because of their disabilities, are unable to demonstrate their proficiency on standard State assessments, even with testing accommodations.

The rules have been developed to ensure that students with disabilities have demonstrated that they have met the State’s learning standards for graduation. Specifically, the superintendent must review, document and provide a written certification that there is evidence that the student has otherwise met the standards for graduation with a Local Diploma.

Because English language arts and math are foundational skills for which there must be a standardized measure of achievement, students must achieve a minimum score on the ELA and math Regents exams. However, for the other Regents exams typically required for graduation, this option allows for superintendents to review other documentation of proficiency when the student cannot pass one or more of these exams. 

Details of the New Rules:

  • The new option is available only to students with disabilities who have a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) and are receiving special education programs or related services.
  • Beginning with students with disabilities who are otherwise eligible to graduate in June 2016 and thereafter, a school superintendent (or the principal of a registered nonpublic school or charter school, as applicable) has the responsibility to determine if a student with a disability has otherwise met the standards for graduation with a Local Diploma when such student has not been successful, because of his/her disability, at demonstrating his/her proficiency on the Regents exams required for graduation.

In conducting a review to ensure the student has met the academic standards, the superintendent must consider evidence that demonstrates that the student passed courses culminating in the exam required for graduation, in accordance with the district’s grading policies. In making this determination, the superintendent must consider the student’s final course grade as well as student work completed throughout the school year and interim grades on homework, projects, class work, quizzes and tests that demonstrate the student has met the learning standards for the course and actively participated in the exam required for graduation.

  • The superintendent must ensure that every student with a disability who does not meet the graduation standards through the existing appeal and safety net options is considered for the superintendent determination. This option does not need to be formally requested by the student or parent.

Today’s action adds to the three “safety net” options currently available to students with disabilities to graduate with a Local Diploma:

  • Low Pass Rate Safety Net Option: Five required Regents exams with a score of 55 – 64.
  • Low Pass Rate Safety Net Option with Appeal:  Students who score up to three points below a score of 55 on a Regents exam are eligible to receive the local diploma via appeal if all of the conditions of appeal are met.
  • Compensatory Safety Net Option: A student with a disability may receive a Local Diploma if he/she scores between 45-54 on one or more of the Regents exams required for graduation, other than English language arts (ELA) or mathematics, but achieves a score of 65 or higher on another required Regents exam which can compensate for the lower score. A score of 65 or higher on a single examination may not be used to compensate for more than one examination for which a score of 45-54 is earned.