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State education commissioner will review whether newly approved graduation exams have ‘sufficient rigor’

State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia
State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia
Monica Disare

Last March, New York State’s Board of Regents took a radical step toward providing more graduation options for students: Instead of taking a final Regents exam, they decided, students could substitute an exam certifying they are ready for entry-level work.

But the exams themselves raised eyebrows for including questions such as how to throw an office party without use of the company refrigerator.

Now, state officials are reviewing the exams that satisfy this new graduation option.

After April 3, 2017, any exam used to earn a Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) credential must be approved by the commissioner and meet a new set of conditions designed, in part, to ensure the exams are of “sufficient rigor,” according to Regents material.

Students can earn their CDOS credential in two ways. They can either complete 216 hours of career and technical education (CTE) coursework or work-based learning and a host of other requirements, such as developing a career plan; or simply pass a nationally recognized work-readiness exam.

The new conditions require that the exams accurately measure the skills necessary for entry-level employment, are designed in consultation with experts, and meet standards of “validity, reliability, and fairness,” the Regents material states.

These efforts are part of a larger balancing act undertaken by the Board of Regents. In the past, students had to pass five Regents exams to earn a diploma. In 2014, the board began allowing students to substitute their final Regents exam for a pathway in the arts or CTE — a policy known as “4+1.” But as the Regents explore adding more graduation options under the new policy, they are still trying to maintain the rigor of a New York state diploma.

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