It was not until I had a recent conversation with my daughter’s guidance counselor about another matter that I was aware that she is on track to graduate with an Advanced Regents Diploma. This was news to me, as it was the first time I had heard about the different diploma options available. Traditionally, students have had to pass five Regents exams to graduate. In order to earn the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation, students must pass the following Regents exams with a score of 65 or better: Comprehensive English; Mathematics (all three); Global History; US History; Science (one physical and one life science); and a language other than English.
With some further digging, I uncovered that New York is one of only two states that require five or more exams to graduate and that most states have moved away from exit exams altogether. California’s governor officially terminated them just last month. However, New York colleges give preference to students with an Advanced Regents Diploma.
If this wasn’t enough to digest, New York currently allows students to replace one of the Regents exams with alternative assessments, including a career-focused exam or an arts test. And last year, the state Board of Regents discussed the option to substitute a project-based assessment for a failed Regents exam. All of this clearly illustrates the state’s quest to balance giving all students a fair chance at earning a diploma while trying to ensure that it means something and signifies readiness for college.
But shouldn’t the rigorous path of the Advanced Regents Diploma be the standard for all students? Apparently the Board of Regents is thinking the same way, as some members have expressed that they want to radically rethink our state’s graduation requirements. It seems as though we should be moving in that direction instead of piecemealing so many options together and adding confusing “capstone” projects into the mix.
I also found out that awareness about the Advanced Regents and Regents Diploma tracks among parents of students in my circle is very low. In fact, when I asked four of them which diploma track their child was on, three had no idea what I was talking about, with one of them stating: “At the risk of sounding like the most uninvolved mom ever, would I know? Another said: “I feel like that’s something I should know and don’t believe the school has ever sent me anything about. It’s something that would have a pretty significant impact on how I help my daughter choose classes and study as well.” All are extremely involved parents with one being a past PTA president.
I also asked a few of my daughter’s friends which diploma they were on track to receive and none of them had an answer and only one could explain the perceived advantages of pursuing the Advanced Regents Diploma.
Some may argue that it’s not about changing standards, rather providing different avenues for students to achieve a meaningful diploma. Whichever way you choose to view the issue, the one constant is that the line of communication between schools and parents/guardians needs to be better — at least in our case — so that these often confusing choices can be made in the best interest of the student as early in their high school career as possible.