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Board of Regents proposal allows more paths to graduation

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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 Department Commissioner John B. King Jr.

He listed off regional graduation rates, stating “there would be no reason why our graduation rate can’t be 100 percent” if the proposal passes.

According to a press release:

n Jefferson County has an 81.9 percent graduation rate

n Lewis County has an 85.5 percent graduation rate

n St. Lawrence County has a 78.9 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 in the past.

“Not that we have a huge dropout rate, but for a small minority of students who can’t seem to engage in school, this could be a real life saver for them,” said Mr. Boak.

He stressed that students would have to still take both global studies courses. He said the global studies Regents exam has caused problems in the past because the two-year course only has one test at the end.

Mr. Boak 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 in the future. 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 that’s not all. Next spring’s state aid to school districts could be affected negatively by Hurricane Sandy’s destruction on New York City.

“We don’t have the money or resources to pull this off,” he said.

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