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Policy & Initiatives

Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma

Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma

Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) leads a statewide coalition of educational and advocacy organizations and families who have come together to urge the creation of multiple pathways to a diploma in New York State, each of which holds all students to high expectations, provides them with quality instruction, and opens doors to career and post-secondary education opportunities. Members of the Multiple Pathways to a Diploma Coalition believe that measuring college- and career-readiness requires valuing several different and equally valid ways to evaluate students’ knowledge needed for success in the workplace and higher education. The Coalition seeks to maximize opportunities for diverse learners to receive their high school diplomas as well as draw attention to the barriers to graduation created by the focus on high-stakes standardized testing.

Background

The Coalition initially came together in 2007 to demand that the State address excessive use of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) diploma. Students in special education were given the option to earn an IEP diploma, which despite its name, was not a valid high school diploma and was not accepted by colleges, universities, or the military. Some school districts were using the IEP diploma to push students with disabilities out of school prematurely. After a series of conversations between Coalition members, individual members of the Board of Regents, and officials at the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the State eliminated the IEP diploma, effective July 1, 2013.

In January 2011, the State announced its intention to revisit New York’s graduation requirements, and the Coalition decided to focus on graduation requirements and diploma options more broadly. At that time, the Coalition’s membership began to expand. Currently, the Coalition is comprised of more than 60 advocacy organizations, educators, and families across New York State, representing a broad cross-section of students, including students with disabilities, English Language Learners (ELLs), and economically disadvantaged students. Read more about the Coalition’s mission and core principles and like the Coalition on Facebook

Coalition Activities

The Coalition Responds to the Board of Regents' and State Education Department's Discussion of Pathways to Graduation
In June 2014, the Coalition wrote to the Board of Regents and SED and asked the State to develop a more expansive and inclusive array of assessment pathways in addition to maximizing access for all students to those instructional pathways outlined in SED's presentation at the May Regents meeting. In July, the Coalition again expressed concerns that for the 25% of New York State students who do not graduate within four years, the alternatives being considered will still leave them without options for graduation. Click on the links to view the June letter and the July letter.

The Coalition Holds a Policy Briefing on Rethinking Pathways to Graduation in New York State
On Wednesday, April 30, 2014, the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma sponsored a policy briefing in Albany with State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Senator John Flanagan to discuss the current graduation crisis in New York State and opportunities for offering alternative pathways to a diploma. At the briefing, which was co-sponsored by State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Senator John Flanagan, parents and students shared their experiences with New York State's high-stakes exit exams. Advocates, educators, and service providers also offered recommendations for instructional models that can help at-risk students graduate and alternatives to the high-stakes exit exams that currently serve as barriers to graduation. View a PowerPoint presentation from the policy briefing with more data on graduation rates.

The Coalition Releases a Report Calling on New York State to Rethink Pathways to Graduation
On December 12, 2013, the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma released a report, Rethinking Pathways to High School Graduation in New York State: Forging New Ways for Students to Show Their Achievement of Standards, prepared by Advocates for Children of New York. The report examined the difficulties that high stakes standardized exit exams pose for many students and addressed the need for more flexible exam requirements and assessment-based pathways to a diploma. The report outlined several recommendations for the State to improve access to a high school diploma while maintaining high standards that ensure college or career readiness. 

The Coalition Issues a Call to Action for the Creation of Diploma Pathways that Meet the Needs of the Diversity of Students in New York State
In August 2013, the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma released a Call to Action fact sheet that provided statistics regarding the loss to students’ future earnings and the costs to society when students are unable to earn a high school degree. 

The Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma Identifies Evidence of Potential Barriers to CTE Instruction for Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners
In January 2013 and again in March 2013, the Coalition presented evidence to the Board of Regents and New York State Career and Technical Education (CTE) Assessment Review Panel of the potential barriers to CTE instruction for students with disabilities and English Language learners (ELLs). The Coalition believes that work-based learning and career and technical education can be a more effective way to keep students engaged in school and provide pathways to a diploma and higher education and/or a career. In particular, CTE instruction offers significant benefits to students with disabilities and ELLs. However, many barriers continue to prevent these students from accessing rigorous, high-quality CTE programs in NYS and elsewhere. The Coalition provided the Panel with recommendations for creating CTE programs that will benefit ALL students. 

Coalition Supports New York State Senate Bill 7331 and New York State Assembly Bill 10367 to Extend the Availability of the Local Diploma
In June 2012, the Coalition issued a memorandum in support of Senate Bill 7331, introduced by Senator Flanagan, and Assembly Bill 10367, introduced by Assemblyman Magnarelli, which would make the local diploma available to all students entering the ninth grade prior to the 2013-2014 school year and require the State Education Department to hold public hearings on creating multiple pathways to a high school diploma. The bills can be seen here.

Coalition Issues a Call to Action to Keep the Local Diploma for All Students until Real Alternatives Exist
In May 2012, the Coalition issued a Call to Action and initiated an online petition, asking New Yorkers to voice their concerns about eliminating the local diploma for general education students before new pathways to a diploma exist.

Coalition Issues Impact Statement about the Elimination of the Local Diploma
In March 2012, the Coalition released a statement that estimated as many as 14,000 general education students still relied on the local diploma to graduate and were, therefore, not likely to graduate in June. Students of color and English Language Learners would be disproportionally affected.

Coalition Issues Its Preliminary Recommendations for Creating Multiple Pathways to a Diploma
On January 17, 2012, the Coalition released its preliminary recommendations for creating additional pathways to a diploma and sent them to the Board of Regents and the State Education Department. The letter to Commissioner John King that accompanied the recommendations is available here.

Coalition Asks that New York Retain the Local Diploma Until it Develops Alternatives
Members of the Coalition wrote to the Board of Regents and the State Education Department to ask that the local diploma be retained until alternative pathways to graduation are established. The March 2011 letter to then-Senior Deputy Commissioner John King can be found here.

Coalition Broadens Its Focus and Develops Its Platform
In January 2011, the State announced its intention to revisit New York’s graduation requirements, and the Coalition decided to focus on graduation requirements and diploma options more broadly. The Coalition also grew in membership at this time and developed a platform

AFC Warns that Eliminating the Local Diploma Will Limit Opportunities for Young People
In October 2010, Advocates for Children of New York released a report, More than a Statistic: Faces of the Local Diploma, which profiled young people who graduated with a local diploma and used it to access post-secondary opportunities. The paper called for the development of alternative pathways to graduation.

AFC Calls for Reform of the IEP Diploma
In 2007, AFC sent a letter to the State Education Department demanding reform of the IEP diploma because its misuse contributed to students with disabilities leaving school without graduating. A diverse roster of organizations and individuals joined AFC in making these demands. To read the press release, click here.

Public Comments & Testimony

  • On October 31, 2013, the Coalition submitted comments to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) in response to a proposal to require high school students to complete a Regents Research Paper in order to graduate with a Regents or local diploma...View comments
     
  • On June 7, 2013, the Coalition submitted comments on a proposed amendment to the regulations of the Commissioner of Education relating to a New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential for students with disabilities…View comments
     
  • On February 11, 2013, the Coalition submitted comments to NYSED opposing the proposed Regents Certificate of Work Readiness. The Coalition believes that limiting the Certificate to students with disabilities runs counter to the goal of increasing access for these students to college and careers and discriminates against these students...View comments
     
  • On November 30, 2012, the Coalition submitted comments regarding the safety net for students with disabilities. The Coalition agreed the revised proposed amendments to Section 100.5 rightfully recognized that students have different modes of learning and offered flexibility for some students who have difficulties with certain exams. However, the Coalition filed its comments in opposition because a safety net with a compensatory model does not go far enough to establish meaningful alternatives for students who cannot adequately demonstrate their knowledge and skills on standardized tests, but can show proficiency through other rigorous forms of assessment…View comments

For more information regarding the Multiple Pathways to a Diploma Coalition or to inquire about joining, please contact Abja Midha at amidha@advocatesforchildren.org.