OBSERVER Staff Writer
High school seniors who are receiving diplomas this weekend had to pass a minimum of five Regents exams in order to graduate. If a new proposal goes through, the exams required by Board of Regents will change.
The New York State Board of Regents is proposing a change to graduation requirements in order to give students more flexibility in academics.
"If they do adopt this multiple pathways, it will be extremely beneficial to students across the state," said Suzette Benson, Erie-2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES (E2CCB) Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instructional Services.
Under the new proposal, three different pathways will be available for students. The pathways include the traditional pathway, a Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway and a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) pathway.
"It will allow our students to focus on a specialized field whether it be science, engineering or career and technical education ... so that students can pursue diploma requirements that have a connection to what they're going to do after they graduate," said Dr. David O'Rourke, E2CCB BOCES Assistant Superintendent for Management Services.
The traditional pathway would leave the Regents curriculum as is which includes the passing of five exams - English, one math exam, one science exam, global studies and U.S. history.
"What they are exploring is, 'is there any flexibility to allow students to get academic rigor through other paths,'" O'Rourke explained.
Under both the CTE and STEM pathways, the global studies Regents exam will no longer be required. Each student will still be required to take two years of global studies as a graduation requirement.
"The proposal is that these other tests will take the place of the global history test," Benson said.
The reasoning behind why the global history exam is being considered as optional is due to federal regulations.
"The only exam that the Board of Regents can have flexibility on, of the five exams required, is the global studies exam. That's because federal regulations require the other examinations," O'Rourke said. "Students would still have to take the global studies course, both years of it."
Students choosing the STEM pathway will have to pass another science or math Regents exam. The Board of Regents is still looking into specific details regarding the proposal. Under the current Regents exams offered, there is four science exams for students to choose from.
"I think students having those (pathway) options are a great thing. It would help students with engagement in their courses to feel like it was connected to something they are working towards for the rest of their lives," O'Rourke said.
Students who choose the CTE pathway will have to pass a career and technical education assessment that will demonstrate career and college readiness. Students who choose the CTE pathway are enrolled in BOCES CTE programs. Currently, BOCES offers 20 programs throughout four BOCES locations locally. At the LoGuidice site, there are 11 programs offered.
Students who are enrolled in these programs attend classes at a BOCES center for half days throughout their junior and senior years in high school. In order to complete the programs at BOCES, students are required to take CTE assessments which meet national standards, Benson said.
"We make sure students are prepared in programs that are very rigorous already," she said.
These tests are offered at the end of the year for students. The CTE programs offered at BOCES integrate core academics and work with well-established internship programs locally so students can have real world experience. For example, students enrolled in the health careers program must pass a state approved assessment at the end of the two year course. Students also earn Community Emergency Response Team, certified nursing assistant, CPR and AED certificates. Students also do internships in other hospitals such as Brooks Memorial Hospital.
For students who do not wish to complete the CTE or STEM pathways, the traditional pathway will still be available for students. Students may go above the five required exams and the advanced Regents diploma will also still be intact. The specific guidelines are still being worked out in the proposal, Benson said.
While the proposal is made at the state level, BOCES is in full support of the proposal and O'Rourke applauded the state for it.
"(The proposal is) looking at how is our education system is setting kids up for global competitiveness so they can be good at careers after they get out of school. I think it's good that we are trying to take a step in that direction," O'Rourke said. "It's important our students challenge themselves."
The Board of Regents will continue discussion on the proposal over the summer. In a memo distributed by the State Education Department showing the proposal's timeline, the Board of Regents is expected to vote on the proposal in December. The changes will not affect students until the 2013 cohort of freshman. Students already in 10th grade in September 2013 will not be affected by these changes.
Comments on this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org