In New York, Vocational Skills Could Count Toward Diploma

The New York State Board of Regents gave initial approval to a major change to high school graduation requirements on Monday, allowing students to earn their diplomas with one fewer test if they pass another assessment in a range of subjects like languages, the arts, hospitality management and carpentry.

Students have had to pass five tests, one each in English, math and science, and two in social studies. The new requirements would make the second social studies exam optional, allowing students to take an approved alternative test in its place.

“The idea is really to ensure we have a system that honors students’ passions about different areas of study,” said John B. King, that state’s education commissioner. “We’ve got a significant chunk of students who aren’t finishing, and there’s an opportunity here to make high school a more compelling place for them.”

This shift, described by state officials as creating “multiple pathways” to graduation, has been in the works for several years and is the latest in a series of changes made to state requirements over the last decade. Beginning with freshmen in 2005, the state started phasing in a new threshold for the Regents exams, raising the passing scores to 65 from 55 for all five required tests. Despite that shift, graduation rates have risen to 74.9 for those who started as freshmen in 2009, the most recent year available, from 65.8 percent statewide for students who began high school in 2001. <Read more.>

Via Elizabeth A. Harris, The New York Times.