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Dear Parents,

I would like to take the opportunity to provide you with some recent news and important updates. These include guidance on the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA); the New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential ; the 2017 Grades 3-8 Tests in ELA and Math; and a reminder about opportunities to provide input on the New York State Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) draft plan.

Dignity for All Students Act (DASA)

As I noted in my last update, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and I issued a reminder that New York State protects transgender students
. Apart from existing federal law, New York State's Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) requires all school districts in New York to prohibit discrimination and harassment. The following guidance is available to school districts:
Also, in light of recent federal immigration-related actions that have created fear and confusion in New York and across the country, Attorney General Schneiderman and I reminded school districts of their  duty to uphold the rights of immigrant students and safeguard student data . Our immigrant students have a right to a free education and they must not fear retribution for themselves or family members simply because they attend school. As education and law enforcement leaders, it is imperative that we protect all students as well as the information we have about them to the fullest extent possible under the law.

New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential

The New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential certifies that a student has the standards-based knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level employment. While the CDOS Commencement Credential is not a regular (Regents or local) high school diploma, it still affords opportunities to students, including those with disabilities, who are unable to complete the coursework, credit, and examination requirements necessary to attain a high school diploma. NYSED has worked with the New York State Office of Civil Service and the U.S. Department of Defense to ensure there is an understanding of the CDOS Commencement Credential and how it can contribute toward consideration for Civil Service Employment and military service.

Students with disabilities who do not earn a high school diploma may be eligible for  Civil Service Employment under Section 55(b), which is a specialized program to place up to 1,200 individuals with disabilities in entry-level State jobs and requires no written or oral examination.
The U.S. Department of Defense also provides information on educational and assessment requirements for those interested in military service. Contact your local military enlistment office and review this information regarding the examinations and requirements for specific branches of the military .

NYSED continues to discuss the above options with the New York State Office of Civil Service and the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition, last June, the New York State Board of Regents adopted rules that allow certain students with disabilities to meet the academic requirements to earn a Local Diploma without passing every Regents exam that is otherwise required for graduation. School superintendents are now required to determine, at the local level, if a student with a disability is eligible for graduation. Specifically, the superintendent must review, document, and provide a written certification that there is evidence that the student has otherwise met the standards for graduation with a Local Diploma.

The Board of Regents has also acted to make the Regents diploma more accessible for more students via the following options:
  • Pathway Assessment Option
    Under the "4+1" pathway assessment option, students must take and pass four required Regents Exams or Department-approved alternative assessments (one in each of the following subjects: English, math, science, and social studies) and a comparably rigorous assessment for the fifth required exam to graduate.
  • Career Development Occupational Studies Graduation Pathway Option
    Under the new "4+CDOS" pathway option, a student may graduate with a high school diploma if the student meets the graduation course and credit requirements established in section 100.5 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education; passes four required Regents Exams or Department-approved alternative assessments (one in each of the following subjects: English, mathematics, science, and social studies); and meets the requirements to earn the New York State (NYS) CDOS Commencement Credential. This option is now available to all students, not just students with disabilities. 
  • Allowance of Low Pass Appeal in Addition to Compensatory Option
    A student with a disability may receive a local diploma if he/she scores between 45-54 on one or more of the Regents exams required for graduation, other than English language arts (ELA) or mathematics, but achieves a score of 65 or higher on another required Regents exam which can compensate for the lower score. A score of 65 or higher on a single examination may not be used to compensate for more than one examination for which a score of 45-54 is earned. In addition, students with disabilities who score up to three points below a score of 55 on a Regents exam would be eligible to receive the local diploma via appeal if all of the conditions of appeal are met.
A chart detailing all New York State diploma and credential requirements is available here . The Board of Regents has also requested $8 million in this year's budget to support the development of a project-based assessment as an additional alternative way for students who are not successful on Regents examinations, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners, to demonstrate proficiency toward the State's learning standards.

2017 Grades 3-8 Tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics

In response to concerns from parents and educators, the Board of Regents and NYSED have made several changes to our Grades 3-8 Tests. The tests have fewer questions; are untimed; were developed with greater teacher involvement; and have no official evaluation consequences for educators. These changes were first introduced for the 2016 tests and will be carried over to the 2017 tests. Our goal is for all parents to know about and understand these changes. To that end, we have provided the following information on our website about the 2017 assessments for parents:
Opportunities to Provide Input on the New York State Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Draft Plan

Finally, I wanted to remind you that NYSED is conducting a survey to gather public comment on potential Indicators of School Quality and Student Success for inclusion in the State system for determining school accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The  survey is available here . Translated surveys in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic are also available. NYSED is accepting responses to the survey through March 20.

NY SED is providing an additional opportunity for stakeholder and public input at a series of winter regional open meetings this month. Individuals who wish to attend these meetings can find information about the dates, times, locations, and other pertinent details on NYSED's ESSA website .

I hope you find these updates informative and helpful. Thank you for your continued partnership as we work to provide a high-quality education to all children in New York State.


MaryEllen Elia