Facebook Twitter

New York plans to offer new arts option for pathways to graduation

New York high schoolers may be able to substitute one of their five Regents exams for a portfolio of art by 2022 without having to take an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate class.

On Monday, state education department officials laid out a timeline for a new option in the existing arts pathway to graduation: the Individual Arts Assessment Pathway, which would be a compilation of work, scored by teachers, collected from three art classes.

State officials are planning to roll the option out over a three-year timeline that would initially include a pilot of the program at interested high schools next school year, then open the new option up to schools statewide by 2022. School districts can choose whether to accept the new option, which doesn’t need a formal approval from the Board of Regents.

The hope is that more schools will embrace arts education, and that the option would be easy for schools to make available for students, Marybeth Casey, director of curriculum and instruction, told the Board of Regents at their March meeting.

“We didn’t want to put something out that the schools would have to purchase, that schools would have to invest a great deal of funding in,” Casey said.

In recent years, the Regents have established multiple “pathways” for students to get their diplomas by substituting another assessment in a specific area for their fifth Regents exam, such as career and technical education. It’s a move to ensure graduation is a reality for more students and has been applauded by some but criticized by those who worry students aren’t receiving a rigorous education.

Right now, students can pursue an arts pathway by taking one of several advanced placement and International Baccalaureate assessments. But officials are trying to develop another art option because not all New York high schools offer advanced courses.

Most of New York City’s recent increase in graduation rates was due to more students taking alternative assessments and an expanded appeals process that made it easier for students to graduate despite earning a low score on Regents exams. The city recently logged a record high graduation rate of 76 percent.

Last year, no New York City students pursued an arts pathway to graduation, state data shows. And statewide, just 335 students chose the arts option of about 11,200 who chose an alternate graduation pathway.

The state convened a commission on the arts pathway and called on experts, who recommended a framework where students would collect their best work from three arts classes and present a final portfolio for scoring.  

This spring, officials and a working group — which will include educators who teach visual arts, dance, music, theater, and media arts — plan to decide on what a successful student portfolio should look like.

Regent Roger Tilles, who has strongly supported an arts graduation pathway, wondered how this option would be available to all students, “not just those who have arts programs today?”

State officials said they’re hoping the rollout of this pilot will push districts and schools who have few arts options to build on that.