Among the many things that the NY State Regents and New York State Department of Education have done terribly wrong is require all students in the state, other than a small number of students with IEP's, to pass five Regents examinations to graduate from high school. This is a huge departure from when I went to school when students had a choice of graduating with a Regents diploma, a commercial diploma, or a general diploma. That was a time when New York City and New York State had first rate vocation and technical programs, and many young people chose to go that route, and head straight for the job market, rather than go the academic route and head off to college. Somehow, between now and then, the geniuses in Albany decided that everyone has to get a Regents diploma and in the process, they ended up undermining technical and vocational education in many parts of the state.
There have been some gains as a result of that approach. More students have gone on to college and junior college, and fewer students have been
neglected entirely and put in make work classes with teachers that don't push them. Unfortunately, while all this has taken place, many technical and vocational programs in the state have been undermined, requiring students who want a trade to spend their own money on trade schools after they leave high school, with or without a degree
But the worst damage is yet to come. In the last few years, as Regents exams are increasingly aligned with the Common Core standards, the exams have been made much more difficult, and many students are in an utter panic about being able to graduate from high school. Worse yet, the alternative to an official high school diploma, the GED, which has now been taken over by Pearson, has also been made much more difficult. Within the next few years, we face the prospect of hundreds of thousands of students in the state being able to get any kind of high school certification, with ELL students, special needs students and students in high poverty districts being especially victimized.
There are some special interests in the state who welcome this crisis. They see it as an opportunity to take over whole districts, replace public schools with charter schools, or hire consulting firms to undertake "school turnaround" strategies in schools with low graduation rates. You can be sure that teachers will be blamed for that crisis, and put under fierce pressure to squeeze test results out of terrified students
But the impact will not only be felt on the high school level. As panic about low graduation rates filters through the system, educators from Pre-K up will feel the pressure to make students test ready and make testing and test prep and integral part of the school experience when exploration and play and the arts should be integral parts of the curriculum
In short, the education system in the entire state will be held hostage to the gradution crisis
If you think test pressure are bad now, wait till you see what they are like in three or four years when the Regents are entirely Common Core aligned
It is time for parents and teachers and students to organize NOW to demand that there be alternative paths to graduation other than the Regents Diploma and the GED. Otherwise schools in NY State will be in full scale panic mode from Pre-K to 12 grade