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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.


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 statement of purpose [PDF], view the Coalition's recent activities and public comments, and like the Coalition on Facebook

In November 2019, the Board of Regents and State Education Department launched Phase 1 of a two-year plan to reexamine graduation requirements in New York State, including plans to convene a Blue Ribbon Commission in 2020.  While the pandemic delayed this work, we are pleased that the State launched the Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures in 2022. In response, the Coalition released a list of recommendations for creating a graduation framework that is fair, comprehensible, and accessible to all students.

Core Principles

We believe that any alternate pathway must:

  1. Be available to all students, not just students with disabilities. 
  2. Utilize multiple and equally valid ways to assess the skills needed for success in the workplace and higher education rather than depend on the passing of high-stakes standardized tests. 
  3. Make meaningful links to post-secondary opportunities and preparedness and lead to a high school diploma recognized and valued by colleges, employers and the military. 
  4. Allow students to specialize, including in career and technical education, and should not be one-size-fits-all. 
  5. Begin early and connect with middle school and lower grade curricula yet be flexible enough to benefit students who arrive in high school, change schools frequently or have interrupted education.
  6. Build upon and encourage development of individual student strengths. 
  7. Respect student and/or family choice after a careful consideration of the student’s individual goals and full range of options, with no student being assigned to a pathway without the informed consent of the student and his or her family. 
  8. Be properly supported through funding and resources so that school and district staff may implement with fidelity. 

Policy Reports

Rethinking Pathways to Graduation report cover

Rethinking Pathways to High School Graduation in New York State: Forging New Ways for Students to Show Their Achievement of Standards 
In December 2013, the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma released this report, prepared by Advocates for Children of New York, examining the difficulties that high stakes standardized exit exams pose for many students and addressing the need for more flexible exam requirements and assessment-based pathways to a diploma. The report outlines several recommendations for the State to improve access to a high school diploma while maintaining high standards that ensure college or career readiness.
Executive summary [PDF]
Full report [PDF]

CTE policy brief, first page

Creating CTE Programs that Benefit Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners 
In February 2016, the Coalition issued an updated policy brief identifying barriers to CTE instruction for students with disabilities and ELLs and providing recommendations to NYSED and the Board of Regents for creating accessible CTE programs that will benefit these students. 
Policy brief [PDF]