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New graduation pathways could improve student achievement

June 14, 2012

We frequently comment on and admire the fact that our children are unique. If we viewed them in a line, we would notice that each possesses different qualities. If we spoke to them at a dinner gathering or an assembly, we would be tempted to advise them to find their own way, pursue their special interest, and achieve their greatest potential.

So why do we require that they all meet exactly the same program for graduation requirements? Over the next few weeks, the Board of Regents is considering other graduation requirements that recognize various pathways students may pursue toward college and career readiness.

One pathway would be the same one currently allowed (passing five Regents exams in English, math, science, global history, and U.S. history). A second pathway would be to allow students not to take the global history Regents exam, although they would still have to take and pass the course content. Instead, students would pass a state-accredited CTE (Career & Technical Education) exam—demanding, national, industry-standard tests. The third pathway would be for students to forgo the global history Regents in favor of an additional math or science Regents. This pathway correlates with our national need to develop more workforce preparation in the science, technology, engineering and math areas.

Each of these pathways is challenging. Each would meet the higher standards required by colleges and prospective employers. Together, the pathways would appeal to a broader range of students—those who have need of a liberal arts background and those who are more focused in their career direction. Providing these options may also increase student motivation in that if students can focus on areas of interest, they may not drop out of high school. Statistics show that high school completers earn more than dropouts. Likewise, those with additional, post-high school training earn more than high school graduates. If we can turn more students on to learning, it may lead to more individual success and an overall healthier economy.

Donna Hemmer, Director of Communications
Sullivan County BOCES
Liberty, NY