Long Beach, NY - June 29, 2015 - Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky authored a letter – and was joined by more than 100 of his colleagues – to the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department (“NYSED”) urging the state to address the lack of available high school diploma options for students with developmental and learning disabilities.
Students who entered high school after 2011 and have otherwise succeeded in high school will not graduate with a recognized high school diploma without passing five of the increasingly difficult Regents exams. Until this coming school year, students with disabilities were able to achieve a local diploma through a combination of Regents Competency Tests (“RCT”) and the Safety Net pass score option by earning between 55 and 64 on required Regents. However, the RCTs have been phased out so that students who entered high school after 2011 can only achieve a local diploma with the pass score option.
In the bipartisan letter, Kaminsky wrote, “This makes it incredibly difficult for students with learning and other disabilities to achieve a recognized diploma if they cannot succeed in all required Regents exams… Specifically, because most colleges require a diploma — one that is now out of reach — many of our students will be shut out from attending college. That is a tragedy.”
“It is awful to think that students who succeeded in high school but who cannot pass difficult standardized tests will have their pathways to success blocked by unnecessary obstacles,” said Assemblyman Kaminsky. “I will fight to ensure that all children have the chance to succeed and have the resources they need to do so.”
“Without the local diploma at minimum, a child like my son, Brandon, will not be eligible to enroll in a community college or a trade school of his choice. This is too high a price to pay for such a hard-working student. Not only does this thwart my child from continuing his post-secondary education, but it even prevents him from taking any entry-level civil service exams,” said Betty Pilnik, a concerned parent from Oceanside. “After meeting with Assemblyman Kaminsky and his affirming my strong beliefs, I am hopeful that the State Education Department will recognize that all students, especially those who have worked as hard as some of our special needs students, deserve the opportunity to enjoy post-secondary education and meaningful employment, which I believe is an American civil right.”
“As Chair of the Assembly Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Students with Special Needs, I urge the State Education Department (SED) to reconsider how students with disabilities can receive a meaningful diploma consistent with high standards and these students’ unique abilities” said Assemblymember Shelley Mayer. “The current system, eliminating the Regents Competency Tests (RCT) and the local diploma, although admittedly an effort to raise standards, is not an effective answer for these students and their parents.”