South Shore, NY - October 2, 2015 - Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky authored a letter today to the New York State Department of Education (“NYSED”) urging immediate action to address the lack of available pathways to graduation for students with special needs.
“Our children with special needs deserve attention and care and currently they are not getting that,” said Assemblyman Kaminsky. “Without the ability to achieve a local diploma, these children will consistently be shut out of a college education and employment that requires a diploma. We are about to fail an entire generation of students and that is unacceptable.”
All students in New York State are required to pass five Regents exams in order to graduate high school. Until this year, students with disabilities had the option of Regents Competency Tests (“RCTs”), which substituted for traditional Regents exams. RCTs were phased out for students who entered high school in 2011 or later. Many parents of special needs students have vociferously advocated that while their children may have difficulty passing five Regents exams, they are nevertheless capable of succeeding after high school and attending college or entering the workforce.
Assemblyman Kaminsky wrote to NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in June 2015, urging her to address this obvious barrier for students with special needs, and they subsequently met in September. The Board of Regents discussed the issue in their September meeting but did not put forth a comprehensive solution and expedient timetable to address the issue. Assemblyman Kaminsky’s follow-up letter urges quick and meaningful action so as not to disadvantage this year’s graduating students. The letter also proposes solutions to address this pressing problem.
“Bringing back RCTs would be an obvious and immediate solution for students with special needs,” said Assemblyman Kaminsky. “However, there are other solutions to be considered that do not depend so heavily on testing. For example, students with special needs could be complete Project-Based Assessments to demonstrate their varied strengths. I urge the Board of Regents to enact one of these proposals by their meeting in December so that this year’s students will have every chance to succeed.”
“I am thankful for Assemblyman Kaminsky’s continued advocacy on this issue that hits close to home for me,” said Betty Pilnik, a mother from Oceanside. “My son Brandon is so talented and I am fearful that he will be shut out of a successful future due to these testing requirements. Brandon will graduate this year, and it is imperative that a solution be enacted as soon as possible.”