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New York’s students likely to have multiple pathways to graduation, including a career and technical education (CTE) option

November 10, 2014

At its October meeting, the Board of Regents voted to authorize the State Education Department (SED) to finalize a plan that will allow New York’s students to choose from among multiple pathways to graduation, including a career and technical education (CTE) pathway. The plan is expected to receive final approval in January after a public comment period and will take effect for students graduating in June 2015.

Currently, students must take five Regents exams to graduate. Under this new plan, school districts may offer a “4+1” graduation option where students take four Regents exams (English Language Arts, math, science and social studies), and then choose from either a second social studies, science or math Regents exam, or a comparably rigorous technical or other state-approved assessment. This assessment could be in one of the following areas: career and technical education; the arts; humanities; biliteracy (languages other than English); or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The state has established criteria to ensure the assessments are vigorous, valid and reliable.

Focusing on students’ career interests

In a press conference, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and SED Commissioner John King stressed that the multiple pathways to graduation are not easier options, as students must still meet higher learning standards and still earn 22 high school credits. The new approach presents opportunities to tap into students’ career interests and to answer calls from employers to better prepare students to work successfully in a complex global marketplace.

“Underlying this question is the implicit elephant in the room where people are confusing CTE with the old vocational training, which, by and large, was a tracked system — some kids got to go to vocational school, some kids got to graduate high school,” Tisch said. “We are not saying that students do not need to meet the Common Core Standards as they move forward…we know that the 21st century jobs that we are looking to build a supply for in New York state require critical thinking, an ability to read at high levels, numeracy — skills that are covered in these new standards.”

King concurred, adding, “Over the last five years, as we have been talking about college- and career-readiness and what it takes to get there, one of the things that’s become clear is that we need to have multiple pathways to get to that college- and career-readiness. This is really driven by what we hear all the time in the schools we visit — that there is a real need to ensure we tap into student interest and student engagement.”

CTE and other assessments under the multiple pathways plan

An SED blue ribbon commission has identified 13 technical exams that are considered to be of equal or greater rigor to Regents exams and, as such, can be chosen by students on the CTE pathway. These exams range in subject matter from electronics and hospitality management to carpentry, accounting and business. The commission will reconvene this fall to identify additional technical exams. In addition, SED will follow procedures similar to the blue ribbon commission’s process to identify rigorous assessments in other subject areas, beginning with the arts.

Additional changes to social studies requirements

The plan to offer multiple pathways to graduation included additional changes to the state’s social studies requirements. Currently, New York’s students must pass the Regents exam in global history and geography, but aren’t required to take the corresponding course. The new regulations will mandate that all students entering ninth-grade in September 2016 or later take four years of social studies, including two in global history and geography. Students will still be required to take a full year of U.S. history, a half year of participation in government and a half year of economics.

In addition, the global history Regents exam will be modified to measure student knowledge in only the second year of the course, rather than testing students on two years’ worth of material as is the case currently. It is anticipated that the new global history Regents exam will be introduced in June 2018.

Students typically take global history and geography in ninth- and 10th-grades, U.S. history in 11th-grade and participation in government and economics in 12th grade.

The entire plan is expected be presented for adoption at the Board of Regents’ January 2015 meeting and officially take effect on January 28, 2015. For more information, see the SED press release at or the Board of Regents’ draft regulations at

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