New York State School Boards Association

23,000 children of military families affected by proposed changes in Regents regulations

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • July 3, 2017

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Imagine you're a high school senior sweating your way through multiple gym classes every school day. At night, you hit the books extra hard to prepare for New York's Earth Science Regents exam; you need to refresh your understanding of geologic processes, planetary orbits and other topics you last considered two or three years ago in a classroom far, far away.

Educators say that's not a far-fetched scenario for children of military parents who, after hopscotching around the country (or the world), want to graduate from high school in New York.

Under a draft set of regulations that were accepted by the Board of Regents in June, local school officials would have greater flexibility to make accommodations for students who find themselves in such circumstances. The proposed revised regulations are scheduled for a vote in September.

"This brings common-sense adjustments to the regulations that will allow us to help kids graduate on time," said Stephen Todd, district superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES and a member of New York's Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission, which proposed the new regulations. He said New York is home to 23,000 public school students from military families.

About 7,000 are in Todd's BOCES territory, which includes Fort Drum. The remaining 16,000 are scattered about other regions of the state, including the districts near West Point Military Academy.

"It's not unusual for these students to attend two or three or four high schools," Todd said. "Throughout K-12, they may attend a dozen schools," and many will move in and out of New York multiple times.

The proposed regulatory changes follow New York's decision in 2014 to join the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, a national consortium formed to remove the regulatory barriers that can hamstring students' educational progress and complicate pathways to high school diplomas for students whose parents serve in the military.

With action by the Legislature and the governor, New York became the 50th state to join the compact and established the commission to recommend steps to bring the compact's goals to fruition here.

The recommendations from the commission include revisions that would:

  • Provide more discretion and flexibility for principals to accept results of certain "summative" course-concluding exams administered at out-of-state schools to meet graduation requirements in New York.
  • Expand flexibility for school officials to waive requirements for the Global History and Geography and Science Regents exams. While waivers already are available for some students who arrive in 11th or 12th grade, Marybeth Casey of the State Education Department's curriculum staff said the provision has not been available for students who spend even as little as one day enrolled in high school in New York prior to 11th grade.
  • Allow school officials to enroll students immediately and make placement decisions based on unofficial educational and immunization records from out-of-state schools until official documents become available or the unofficial documents are validated. Families have 30 days to obtain any additional required immunizations.

The Regents also plan to provide relief from New York's unusual requirement that students accumulate two full credits in physical education to graduate. Students who move into New York as high schoolers will no longer be required to make up the physical education credits they missed while attending school out of state.

The change "seems small, but it's major for our military students," Casey said at a recent Regents meeting. The issue has triggered many calls to her office over the years, she said.

If approved by the Regents, the revised regulations would take effect on Sept. 27.

The proposed amendments, in full, are available here:

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