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June 10, 2024
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Presents Vision to Transform New York State’s Graduation Requirements

NYSED to Provide Multiple, Rigorous Pathways to a NYS High School Diploma to Prepare All Students for Success in 21st Century Life, College, Careers, Service, and Citizenry

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) today presented its vision to implement the recommendations of the NYS Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures that are designed to bring greater equity to the State’s education system, Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced. The Commission’s recommendations are intended to ensure that all New York State public school students receive the educational opportunities and supports they will need to succeed in school and beyond.

Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, “From the very beginning of this effort, I have urged people to understand that our work is about raising the bar for all. True equity and excellence in education is achievable – but only if we provide all students with meaningful educational opportunities and multiple avenues for them to demonstrate their mastery of the State’s rigorous learning standards. Our job is to prepare students for a lifetime of continuous learning, fulfilling careers, and informed civic engagement. Let's provide them with the tools to do that – and then let's stand back and watch as they pursue their own pathway to success.”

Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “The bold vision we are advancing today is a direct result of countless hours of collaborative work from an incredibly diverse group of expert practitioners and the public. The educational transformation we envision reflects the thoughtful input we received from our stakeholders – particularly from public school students and their families. It takes an incredible amount of time, work, and collaborative effort to transform an education system, and we will not stop working until we get the job done right for all New Yorkers.”

In 2019, the New York State Board of Regents and Education Department launched the Graduation Measures Initiative to explore what a New York State diploma should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for all students. Building on the Regents’ and Department’s shared commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and with a foundation rooted strongly in the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework, the initiative was developed to: (1) create true equity in New York State’s public education systems, and (2) ensure that all New York students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in school and after they graduate. In November 2023, the Blue Ribbon Commission presented its recommendations for achieving these goals.

At today’s Board of Regents meeting, staff presented NYSED’s proposed vision for implementing the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures. The Department’s vision calls for transformative actions in four areas:

  • Transformation #1: Adopt the New York State Portrait of a Graduate
    The Portrait of a Graduate is intended to create a shared understanding of the skills and knowledge that New York State public school graduates have mastered. To earn a high school diploma, a student will have to demonstrate proficiency in each component of the Portrait, meaning that they must be critical thinkers, innovative problem solvers, literate across all content areas, culturally competent, socially-emotionally competent, effective communicators, and global citizens. 
  • Transformation #2: Redefine Credits
    NYSED proposes to redefine credits to focus on proficiency rather than upon the completion of time-based units of study (as is the current practice for most students). The goal is to expand the ways in which students may demonstrate their mastery of the State’s rigorous learning standards and attainment of the various components of the Portrait of a Graduate. Students would be permitted to demonstrate proficiency in a number of different ways, including, for example, through approved work- or service-based learning experiences; dual credit programs such as early college high school; earning a New York State seal or credential; traditional high school courses; approved Career and Technical Education programs; participation in the arts; and passing approved assessments, including Regents exams.

    The Department’s vision in this area supports the needs of all students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, because it allows them the flexibility to demonstrate their understanding and skills in the way best aligned with their strengths and abilities. This approach is consistent with the Board of Regents’ focus on creating a more equitable education system that allows for multiple measures to be used to assess what students know and can do while maintaining rigor.

  • Transformation #3: Sunset Diploma Assessment Requirements
    NYSED recommends decoupling specific assessment requirements from graduation requirements. Doing so means that students will no longer need to pass the Regents exams or a +1 Pathway Assessment in order to graduate from high school. Regents Examinations will continue to be available as one of the measures by which students may demonstrate their proficiency in meeting the State’s learning standards. Students will continue to be assessed through multiple measures at the local level to demonstrate their learning. They will still take specific state-level assessments required by federal law to track progress across New York.
  • Transformation #4: Move to One Diploma
    The Department recommends moving to a system with only one diploma available to all New York State public school graduates. Under the Department’s recommendations, districts would be required to confer diplomas to all students who satisfy the State’s requirements. This approach would eliminate the local diploma, the “advanced designation” diploma would become a seal or endorsement, and districts would be authorized to add additional seals and endorsements.    

In a continuing effort to transform New York’s education system guided by stakeholder input and feedback, NYSED will conduct a series of Blue Ribbon Commission “Ambassador Forums” between July and October 2024. These forums will provide an opportunity for the public to share their thoughts about the four proposed transformations.

In November 2024, the Department’s implementation plan will be presented to the Board of Regents with projected timelines, affected regulations, and other considerations. The Board must approve any changes to the State’s graduation requirements; until such time, the existing graduation requirements remain in effect for all public school students in New York.

Additional information about the Graduation Measures initiative can be found on the Department’s Graduation Measures website