- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - New York education leaders on Monday endorsed a plan to give students more flexibility in how they earn their high school diplomas with the goal of improving graduation rates and career readiness.

The Board of Regents agreed that instead of passing five Regents exams to graduate - one each in English, science and math and two in history - students should be able to choose a 4 + 1 option and replace one of the history exams with an exam in their chosen career field, such as science or the arts.

“These new pathways to graduation will give students confidence, competence and a real choice,” Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said after the board approved draft regulations at a meeting in Albany.

Instead of the second history exam, students pursuing so-called STEM careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics could, for example, substitute a passing grade on a second math exam. Or students could pass an approved Career and Technical Education test in a field such as accounting, metal working or hotel management or prove their skills in the arts, humanities or a foreign language, officials said.

“These new regulations preserve the rigor of New York’s graduation requirement while at the same time offering students comparably rigorous options that keep them engaged in school and learning,” Education Commissioner John King Jr. said.

The New York State United Teachers union, which pushed for the change, called the Regents action “a long overdue step in the right direction.”

NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino said that districts would need funding and support for program development and that students should be encouraged to explore career options well before high school.

“CTE programs should be finely honed to strategically focus on workforce needs and job growth so students can acquire skills with value in the labor market,” Fortino said in a statement.

The Board of Regents is expected to take a final vote in January. The change would take effect with current seniors.

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