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Regents keep focus on grad requirements overhaul

Regents keep focus on grad requirements overhaul

State Education Department is seeking public input
Regents keep focus on grad requirements overhaul
Photographer: Gazette file photo

ALBANY -- The state Education Department is seeking input from the public for its review and potential overhaul of New York’s high school graduation requirements.

In addition to a series of public meetings to be held, people may send ideas and comments to [email protected]

The Board of Regents at its meeting Monday kept up its focus on a planned 2-year-long review of the state’s high school diploma requirements and what, if any, changes to make to them. The regents pushed department officials for more public meetings and raised questions on how they plan to process all the comments from the public.

“How are we going to manage all of this and make it useful to us?” asked Regent Beverly Ouderkirk, who represents parts of the Capital Region and the North Country.

Department officials outlined a proposed timeline that envisions regional public meetings starting next month and the establishment of “Blue Ribbon Commission” in February. The commission would spend as much as a year developing recommendations and a final report to present the Board of Regents in fall 2021.

The public engagement will run parallel to a review and analysis of academic research on graduation standards and what other states require for their graduates. The Education Department is working on hiring an outside consultant to help manage the research collection and analysis.

“At the same time we are doing these meetings, we must do the research,” said Kimberly Young Wilkins, an assistant commissioner.

The department has planned to host at least one public meeting in each of the state’s 13 judicial districts, but some members of the Board of Regents called for more meetings and argued one meeting would not be enough to give all interested parties a chance to make a meeting.

The regents also pressed department staff to consider how to involve students among other groups.

“I’ve met so many wonderful students who have come up to me … and have kept a relationship with me and want a voice; I hope we are going to include them,” Ouderkirk said.

Department officials and leaders of the Regents have insisted that all ideas are on the table, including a rethinking of the state’s Regents exams required for graduation.

“I think we should never ignore the fact we are looking at college, career and civic readiness,” Regent Judith Johnson said, emphasizing the need to teach students the importance of voting and civic engagement.

The coming months of study and analysis will be directed by a series of guiding questions the Regents have outlined at the outset of the diploma review. The questions seek answers as fundamental as what New Yorkers want children to know and learn before graduating;  they also seek to find new ways of measuring student achievement and giving them a way to demonstrate acquisition of skills and knowledge.

Preliminary discussions have suggested the regents are interested in allowing students multiple paths toward graduation, creating ways for students to demonstrate their learning through involved projects, portfolios of their work and other methods beyond tests.

The regents have also signaled a major impact that could result from the diploma review.

“This has the potential to impact every citizen in this state for a long, long time, for the rest of our lives,” said Regent T. Andrew Brown. “This is not something that’s only going to be of relevance to kids and teachers …  this is important to the larger economy and literally every citizen in the state.”

Correction 11:40 a.m. 10/8: A previous version of this article listed the wrong number of judicial districts in New York. The state has 13 judicial districts.

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