CANTON - If the Board of Regents approves a proposal for alternative high school diploma pathways promptly, students can take advantage of it as soon as next school year, according to U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer.
The proposal breaks the global studies Regents exam into two parts and would allow students to swap their second exam for a career and technical or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math courses) test, likely boosting both graduation and employment rates.
During a conference call Wednesday, Mr. Schumer, D-N.Y., announced his support for the proposal, saying he sent a letter to state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr.
He listed off regional graduation rates, saying there would be no reason why our graduation rate cant be 100 percent if the proposal passes.
According to a press release:
n St. Lawrence County has a 78.9 percent graduation rate.
n Jefferson County has an 81.9 percent graduation rate.
n Lewis County has an 85.5 percent graduation rate.
Additionally, Mr. Schumer has spoken with business representatives throughout the north country who said they have jobs to fill but cannot find young people with the skill sets needed. These new pathways, he said, would change that.
These diplomas get students ready for careers and ready for college, he said.
Both Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Jack J. Boak Jr. and St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Thomas R. Burns have voiced support for the proposal.
Not that we have a huge dropout rate, but for a small minority of students who cant seem to engage in school, this could be a real life saver for them, Mr. Boak said.
He stressed that students still would have to take both global studies courses. He said the global studies Regents exam has caused problems in the past because the two-year course has only one test at the end.
Mr. Boak said he believes the alternative test would be just as challenging as the traditional Regents test.
There are very rigorous exams in auto technology, in electronics, in welding, he said.
Mr. Burns said even more diploma pathways could be offered. He has spoken to state Education Department representatives and colleagues about a possible arts and humanities option.
No matter which pathway a student chooses, they would still be career- and college-ready, he said.
Although most educators support the proposal, Mr. Burns worries the timing is off. Currently, superintendents, principals and teachers throughout the state are immersed in sending evaluation proposals to SED and aligning all courses to the new Common Core learning standards. And thats not all. Next springs state aid to school districts could be affected negatively by Hurricane Sandys destruction in New York City.
We dont have the money or resources to pull this off, he said.