New York State School Boards Association

Regents revise graduation options for students with disabilities

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • January 22, 2018

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

At a December meeting, the Board of Regents approved a new option to enable more students with disabilities to graduate from high school with a local diploma, even if they do not receive passing scores on required math and English language arts (ELA) Regents exams.

Previously, students with disabilities could be eligible to graduate through a "superintendent determination" process if they earned a minimum score of 55 on both the math and ELA exams (or successfully appealed lower scores).

Now, more students with disabilities will be eligible for a local diploma through the superintendent determination process if they have passed their ELA and mathematics Regents-level courses and have completed requirements for a Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement (CDOS) credential. A superintendent must conduct a review to determine whether a student has demonstrated proficiency in math, ELA and any other subject normally requiring passage of a Regents exam for graduation.

The Regents' action took effect in December as an "emergency" measure, making the option available for students as soon as this month. Following a public comment period, the Regents are scheduled to consider permanent adoption in March.

The action was cheered by parents who have advocated a diploma option for students with disabilities who have qualified to graduate with a CDOS "credential" but not a "diploma." The CDOS credential can be earned with 216 hours of occupational coursework or by passing a national work-readiness assessment. But, because it isn't a "diploma," it isn't always recognized by employers and the military as valid proof of high school completion.

Critics, however, are concerned that the latest action will erode progress toward universal high standards for New York students and could result in some students being tracked into less challenging or less fulfilling educational tracks.

In a written statement on the new option, Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia praised it as "a new mechanism for students with disabilities to demonstrate they've met the state's graduation requirements."

The Regents also:

  • Approved adjustments to regulations that require school districts to be in session for 180 days each school year or risk losing state aid. A daily minimum of instructional hours would be replaced with an aggregate yearly requirement for instructional hours, though the aggregate hours still would be provided over the course of 180 school days. Following a 45-day comment period, action on a permanent change is expected in March.
  • Adopted the latest national standards for principal preparation and practice, the 2015 Professional Standards for Educational Leaders. The new standards replace the 2008 Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards. For more information, visit and .

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