The Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations on graduation measures reflect the diversity of the group as well as the commission’s deep commitment to the success of all children. The Education Trust–New York appreciates the Blue Ribbon Commission’s thoughtful and inclusive review of state graduation measures and supports efforts to provide additional pathways for students to demonstrate their skills and abilities including opportunities for more college credit in high school, financial literacy, civic responsibility, career and technical education, upgrades to teacher education and a simpler diploma system that provides choice for seals and endorsements. It is clear that the recommendations considered the interests of parents, educators, students, school leaders, and other key stakeholders with a lens toward culturally responsive and sustaining education.
The Commission’s recommendations to support our state’s diverse student groups and populations are just a starting point and present a formidable task for state education leaders. As stated throughout the Board of Regents’ conversation during the November 13th meeting, there are myriad questions about policy, implementation, and shifting the aspirations of the recommendations into practice. Most notable in the recommendations is the shift from Regents exams to multiple options and flexibilities to demonstrate learning. While admirable, this poses a significant risk to objectivity in assessment. Further, even with Regents exams in place, New York has not met the minimum participation rate of 95% required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
The Blue Ribbon Commission report raises many critical equity questions that NYSED and the Board of Regents must answer in the coming months to ensure that the well-meaning intentions and hard work of the Commission are upheld. We are concerned that in the absence of objective measures, parents, students, employers, and colleges will be challenged to know if students are prepared for postsecondary opportunities. This will be particularly true for students and communities that our systems have historically and persistently underserved.
While state education officials and the Board of Regents consider the recommendations, we caution that the major shifts proposed by the Commission not distract from the urgent education challenges facing our state. New York State education leaders must consider the charge in the Commission’s recommendations alongside the challenges facing local communities, now – low literacy rates, declining enrollment, and a looming fiscal cliff.
We hope that the recommendations will support the New York State Education Department to focus its attention on strengthening a P-20 system of education that maintains high standards and expectations for all students. By doing so, New York students will reach their senior year able to demonstrate mastery of the holistic skills, knowledge, and competencies needed for future success, regardless of the graduation measure.
For more information on Ed Trust–NY and the New York Equity Coalition’s recommendations for the Blue Ribbon Commission, please visit equityinedny.org/futureready