NY pilot to explore other ways to get a high school diploma

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A multi-year effort to rethink the way New York students graduate advances with the announcement Monday of a new pilot program to study alternatives to the more than century-old Regents exams.

The pilot program, which is still in the planning stages this school year, will add real-world data to other efforts that are once again underway on degree regulation. State officials are re-launching a series of roundtables with educators and families across the state on how they would like to change the degree requirements, they said Monday. This initiative started in 2019, but ended in March 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit New York.

A Blue Ribbon Commission is expected to meet for about two years, beginning around the same time next year. The commission will make recommendations to the Board of Regents in 2024 on how to change the graduation requirements based on the roundtables and other work – about three years later than the state had planned. When considering changes, the board should also consider the results of the pilot, officials said.

The Pilot is not an effort to “replace” the much-vaunted Regents Review, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny for years. Decades of research shows they do not better prepare graduates for life after high school and may hurt some students, such as students of color from low-income families.

Instead, the pilot project would provide students with “different avenues to demonstrate their knowledge,” a spokesperson for the state’s education department said. In recent years, officials have extended ways students can complete the Regents exam requirements, which has helped increase the state and city graduation rate.

State officials will spend the coming year planning the pilot, looking at some models in New York City that already use performance-based assessments such as projects, essays, or other student work that demonstrate what they have learned in place of the Regents exams.

This includes a group of about three dozen “consortium” schools in New York City that have been approved by the state to award degrees based on oral presentations, research essays and papers, science experiments, and resolution. of higher level math problems. Officials also review the International Baccalaureate program and vocational and technical education programs.

Many members of the Board of Regents have expressed support for the plan and alternative assessments to regents, which tend to include multiple-choice and essay questions. New York is one of less than a dozen states that still require students to take exit exams to earn a high school diploma.

“We have to move away from this idea, for example, that there is only one right answer,” New York State Chancellor of Education Lester Young said at the meeting. from Monday’s board. “We live in a world where it just doesn’t work anymore. However, what we do in school has to be aligned with how the world is today, right? “

Officials hope the pilot program will last six years, with the first two and a half years of work being funded by a $ 500,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. (Carnegie Corporation of New York is a funder of Chalkbeat.) This means that the pilot will still be ongoing once the board receives recommendations for adjusting graduation requirements.

Four recent studies have shown that students who participated in project-based learning in social studies and science courses scored higher than their peers on state assessments and advanced placement tests. The four studies focused on a curriculum developed over several years, taught by teachers who received ‘intensive’ training, reports the Hechinger report.

Allison Armor-Garb, special advisor to the executive deputy commissioner, said the department would work with researchers to examine the pilot and student performance. They will also look at the support schools need, including professional development, to help schools conduct performance-based assessments, Armor-Garb said.

“The purpose of this grant is to explore whether performance-based assessment approaches can be implemented in a wide range of schools – urban and rural, large and small, different student demographics – and how to help. schools to make such a transition, ”Armor said. -Said Garb.

The news has been welcome to some advocates who for years have been pushing the department to reconsider the Regents exams.

Ashley Grant, director of the post-secondary education preparation project at the nonprofit Advocates for Children, said they were “happy” that officials were considering project-based assessments as a way to assess students.

“At the moment, most of the high school students in [New York State] are still required to pass four to five high-stakes tests to earn a degree, ”Grant said in a statement. “We agree with NYSED that these types of assessments do not prepare students for post-secondary success and continue to urge New York State to act as soon as possible to decouple Regents exams from graduation requirements. “

Some members of the Board of Regents feared that the 2024 deadline for recommendations on graduation requirements was too late. Regent Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island, said even raising it by a year was too long.

“I would love to see this progress as much as possible,” Tilles said.


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