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Substantial Equivalency

Substantial Equivalency Implementation Guidance

Topics covered:

  • Terminology
  • Substantial Equivalency Pathways 
    • Pathway 1: Registered High Schools
    • Pathway 2: State Approved Private Special Education Schools, State-Operated or State-Supported School
    • Pathway 3: Accreditation
    • Pathway 4: International Baccalaureate (IB) Programs

For more information on a school’s approved participation in an IB program, please consult the IB program website listing. Note that online only religious and independent school programs do not qualify under this pathway.

  • Pathway 5: Federally Approved Schools

There is currently one federally approved school: West Point Middle School located at 705 Barry Road, West Point, NY 10996.

  • Pathway 6: Assessments
  • Pathway 7: Local Reviews
  • Criteria for Substantial Equivalency Reviews
  • Substantial Equivalency Review & Determination Process
  • Timeframes
  • Safeguards



The Substantial Equivalence Accreditor Application should be completed by those entities seeking to become an approved accrediting agency for religious and independent schools looking to utilize pathway 3 to be deemed substantially equivalent. Please refer to the Substantial Equivalency Implementation Guidance for more details.

New York State Education Department's Accreditors for Substantial Equivalency (SE) Pathway 3


Standardized assessments are those that employ a systematic method of gathering information from objectively scored items that allow the test taker to select one or more of the given options or choices as their response.

The Substantial Equivalence New Assessment Consideration Application should be completed by those seeking to utilize assessment pathway 6 to be deemed substantially equivalent. Please refer to the Substantial Equivalency Implementation Guidance for more details.

Not all standardized assessments or families of assessments address the required subjects at the full range of grade levels, so religious and independent schools may use a combination of approved assessments to meet the requirements of this pathway. This is acceptable as long as each assessment is approved, administration meets the criteria in this pathway, and a sufficient number of students participate in the assessment. As such, religious and independent schools utilizing this pathway should utilize the assessments necessary to cover the required applicable subjects for the grade levels served by the schools (i.e. the NYS math, ELA and science assessments for elementary and middle schools and the applicable subject matter assessments for high school).

New York State Education Department's State Assessments for Substantial Equivalency (SE) Pathway 6

Participation Rate: The current public school three-year statewide average State assessment.

Religious and independent schools need to demonstrate an overall student participation rate on any approved assessments, regardless of grade level or subject, which is equal or greater to the three-year statewide average most recently available public school participation rate for the State Grade 3-8 Math and ELA assessments.

New York State Annual Assessment Aggregate Public School Participation Rates - Three-Year Year Statewide Average: The three-year participation rate for the 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23 school years have a calculated 3-year average of 67% Participation Rate

Religious and Independent Schools Assessments Administered 2022-2023

Local School Authority (LSA)

The regulation requires that “by September 1, 2023* (each September 1 thereafter): LSA will report (1) all the nonpublic schools that serve compulsory age children (from age 6 to 16 in most jurisdictions, age 17 in others) within their geographical boundaries and (2) the date of the last substantial equivalency determination made for each nonpublic school to the Department via the NYSED Business Portal or another electronic portal as determined by the Department. Such report must include all nonpublic schools within the LSA geographic boundaries, even nonpublic schools without basic educational data system (BEDS) codes.” Please refer to the Substantial Equivalency Implementation Guidance for more details.

*The initial date has been extended to October 9, 2023.

For directions on how to fulfill this reporting requirement, please see the LSA Religious & Independent School Survey Instructions.

As part of the requirements of state education law, NYSED requires each year that all LSAs must inform the Department of the pathway each religious and independent school in its boundaries has selected to use to demonstrate the substantial equivalence of its instruction via the NYSED Business Portal. The deadline for each LSA to report the pathway for its school/institution to NYSED is December 1, 2023** (and each December 1 thereafter). NYSED is providing a template letter for LSAs to use when requesting information from religious and independent schools within their boundaries.

**NYSED is extending this deadline from December 1, 2023 to January 15, 2024 for this academic year only. Future deadlines to do this work will remain December 1.  

The School Districts: Active School District Superintendent Contact Info and Institution URL report is updated daily and can be found on the SED Public Reports Portal.

Information on the process by which LSAs will conduct reviews will be coming soon.

SE Complaints

Pursuant to section 130.11 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner has the discretion to direct a LSA or Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to investigate a nonpublic school if the Commissioner has cause for concern regarding the substantial equivalence of instruction at such nonpublic school, either based on a complaint or some other source of information.

Please use the SE Complaints form for the submission of specific complaints regarding SE issues about religious and independent schools. 


Previous Updates

July 28, 2023 Update:

Substantial Equivalency Implementation Guidance


September 2022 Update:

The proposed addition of Part 130 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to Substantially Equivalent Instruction for Nonpublic School Students was adopted at the September 2022 Board of Regents Meeting. These amendments go into effect September 28, 2022. Guidance will be published in the near future.


June 2022 Update:

 The New York State Education Department proposed regulations regarding the statutory requirement for substantial equivalency of instruction for students attending nonpublic schools to ensure that all students receive the education to which they are entitled under the law. The Board of Regents discussed the proposed regulations at its March 2022 meetingThe presentation from the Board discussion is available here.

The proposed rulemaking was published in the State Register on March 30, 2022, and the public comment period ran through May 31, 2022. It is expected the final regulation will come before the Board of Regents for its consideration in fall 2022.


May 2021 Update:

Determining Substantial Equivalence of Instruction for Nonpublic School Students in New York State: A Summary of Stakeholder Feedback