Regents rule change for students with disabilities

Jun 14, 2016

The New York State Board of Regents has taken new steps to make it easier for some students with disabilities to graduate. WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley reports this change is being applauded by the leader of the Parent Network of WNY.

High school graduation cap & gown.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“The Regents and I are determined to provide multiple pathways to graduation for all of our students,” said Board of Regents Chancellor, Betty A. Rosa. “Most students with disabilities can meet the state’s learning standards for graduation – so we want to be certain we give them every opportunity to demonstrate their ability.” 

The Regents adopted new rules Tuesday requiring students with disabilities to pass the English and Math exams, but not all five Regents exams in order to graduate to receive a Local Diploma. This new rule goes into effect Monday, June 20th, 2016.

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said some students have different ways of learning.

“Students must still take the English Language Arts and Mathematics Regents exams, but if they can show competence and knowledge with the other three exams that are required, then their superintendents can verify that and they can them become graduates this year,” stated Elia.

The students with disabilities will still be required to take the other three Regents, but it would not prevent them from receiving a Local Diploma.

Elia noted a local high school diploma will still offer those students a chance to get jobs or attend college attend college or go into the military

“And have access to other programming that might not be available to them because they have not been able to pass two of the Regents or three of the Regents exams,” Elia noted.  

The Regents noted there are some students, who, because of their disabilities, are unable to ‘demonstrate their proficiency on standard State assessments, even with testing accommodations’.

“You have students who’ve worked very hard, who have passed the course work that’s necessary, and that will be the determination of them being able to access this Local Diploma,” Elia explained.

“It's a great day for students who may not have been able to get their diploma otherwise,” said Susan Barlow, Executive Director, Parent Network of WNY.  The agency provides support and education for students with disabilities and special education services.  Barlow was excited the Regents made the decision so quickly.

“There are so many students who deserve to have a diploma and weren’t able to do so because of these high stakes testing. You know these Regents really, some of the information aren’t really going to help their students succeed as an adult. Really we should be looking at what is it they come to the table with in terms of how to get a job, in terms of living, and I think having the Math and English Regents be a requirement is good, because those are skills they are going to need,” said Barlow.  

Barlow's only reservation is students will always need skills around transitioning from school to 'work-readiness' if they decide not to go on to college and pursue a job.

Barlow tells us her organization will now conduct some modification on its trainings to help families understand the new change.   

“The fact that they have to achieve a standard within the districts means that they are going to walk away with those schools," Barlow stated.

Regents testing began statewide Tuesday and continue next week. 

Details of the New Rules:

  • The new option is available only to students with disabilities who have a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) and are receiving special education programs or related services.
  • Beginning with students with disabilities who are otherwise eligible to graduate in June 2016 and thereafter, a school superintendent (or the principal of a registered nonpublic school or charter school, as applicable) has the responsibility to determine if a student with a disability has otherwise met the standards for graduation with a Local Diploma when such student has not been successful, because of his/her disability, at demonstrating his/her proficiency on the Regents exams required for graduation.  In conducting a review to ensure the student has met the academic standards, the superintendent    must consider evidence that demonstrates that the student passed courses culminating in the exam required for graduation, in accordance with the district’s grading policies. In making this determination, the superintendent must consider the student’s final course grade as well as student work completed throughout the school year and interim grades on homework, projects, class work, quizzes and tests that demonstrate the student has met the learning standards for the course and actively participated in the exam required for graduation.
  • The superintendent must ensure that every student with a disability who does not meet the graduation standards through the existing appeal and safety net options is considered for the superintendent determination. This option does not need to be formally requested by the student or parent.

Tuesday's  action adds to the three “safety net” options currently available to students with disabilities to graduate with a Local Diploma:

  • Low Pass Rate Safety Net Option: Five required Regents exams with a score of 55 – 64.
  • Low Pass Rate Safety Net Option with Appeal:  Students who score up to three points below a score of 55 on a Regents exam are eligible to receive the local diploma via appeal if all of the conditions of appeal are met.
  • Compensatory Safety Net Option: A student with a disability may receive a Local Diploma if he/she scores between 45-54 on one or more of the Regents exams required for graduation, other than English language arts (ELA) or mathematics, but achieves a score of 65 or higher on another required Regents exam which can compensate for the lower score. A score of 65 or higher on a single examination may not be used to compensate for more than one examination for which a score of 45-54 is earned.