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State Education Dept. rolls out schedule of public meetings on graduation requirements

State Education Dept. rolls out schedule of public meetings on graduation requirements

Meetings to kick off yearslong review - and possible revision - of state's high school diploma requirements
State Education Dept. rolls out schedule of public meetings on graduation requirements
Photographer: Gazette file photo

One of the first chances for the public to offer input into the state Education Department’s review of high school graduation requirements will take place Jan. 30 at BOCES offices in Wilton.

The meeting is one of 14 meetings scheduled across the state, the first round of regional information meetings intended to open a statewide discussion over whether to adopt changes to the requirements schoolchildren must meet to earn their high school diploma.

State officials Monday also announced an extension of the tentative timeline they are working from as they advance toward appointing a commission charged with proposing specific diploma changes. The Board of Regents plans to appoint the commission later this summer, with the commission’s recommendations slated for sometime in 2022, under the timeline.

The Jan. 30 meeting in Wilton will be hosted at 5 p.m. at the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES conference center at 267 Ballard Road.

“We started this at the ground level, and we are trying to gather that information before we think about members on the commission,” Chancellor Betty Rosa said of the initial information-gathering phase the state plans to conduct over the coming months.

The Board of Regents discussed the statewide meetings at its monthly meeting in Albany on Monday. Board members pressed department staff

Regent Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island, noted that his jurisdiction has already started to hold public meetings on changes to diploma requirements. He said the kinds of ideas emerging in those meetings will require educators to think beyond just high school. If state officials want to open the door to a new route for students to take to the graduation stage, they also need to ensure students can get on that track well before the high school grades.

“It becomes clear that in order to have certain pathways at the high school level, you have to have that at the middle school to get them ready for that,” Regent Roger Tilles said. “And if it’s at the middle, you have to start that in elementary school.”

He also said the process of changing diploma requirements will last far beyond just approval from the board of new requirements.

“This will be really life-changing for our education system,” Tilles said.

State education officials also noted Monday they had dropped a contract with education reform group Achieve to work on the state’s graduation requirements. Officials said education groups in the state had raised concerns about Achieve, a nonprofit focused on raising state learning standards and changing academic requirements.

“Due to concerns raised by stakeholders we are no longer partnering with Achieve on this initiative,” said Emily DeSantis, assistant commissioner for public affairs. DeSantis said the department will still use grant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the department’s review.

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