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Policy & Initiatives
Pathways to a Diploma
Pathways to a Diploma
Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) leads a statewide coalition of educational and advocacy organizations and parents who have come together to urge the creation of multiple pathways to a diploma in New York State. Members of the Multiple Pathways to a Diploma Coalition seek to maximize opportunities to obtain high school diplomas for diverse learners and draw attention to the barriers created by the focus on high-stakes standardized testing.
As the State conducts an examination and potential overhaul of its graduation requirements and diploma options, the Coalition has been meeting with members of the New York State Board of Regents, policy-makers at the State Education Department, and advocates and organizations around the state to identify and promote high-quality alternative pathways for high school youth that will prepare them for college and careers.
The Coalition originally came together in 2007 to demand that the State address excessive use of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) diploma, which despite its name, is not a regular high school diploma. Some school districts were using this credential 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, the State has developed an alternate credential and has proposed the elimination of the IEP diploma.
The State is also phasing out the local diploma, which has the force of a regular high school diploma in New York State but does not require the same level of academic achievement as the more rigorous Regents diploma. The Coalition has questioned how the State will support certain student populations, including students learning English, students of color and students with disabilities, who have previously depended disproportionately on the availability of the local diploma to graduate.
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 contributes 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, and the letter can be found here.
AFC Warns that Eliminating the Local Diploma Will Limit
Opportunities for Young People
In October 2010, AFC released a report, “More than a Statistic: Faces of the Local Diploma,” which profiles young people who graduated with a local diploma and used it to access post-secondary opportunities. The paper calls for the development of alternative pathways to graduation.
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 which can be viewed here. The Coalition is still accepting new members and currently developing ideas for potential pathways that it plans to recommend to the State.
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 Issues Its Preliminary Recommendations for Creating Multiple Pathways to a Diploma
On January 17, 2012, the Coalition released its recommendations for creating additional pathways to a diploma and sent them to the Board of Regents and the State Education Department. The preliminary recommendations are available here and the letter to Commissioner John King that accompanied the recommendations is available here.
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 rely on the local diploma to graduate and are, therefore, not likely to graduate in June. Students of color and English Language Learners will be disproportionaly affected.
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 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 for 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 memo is available here, and the bills can be seen here.