Today is the last day for public comment on the New York State Department of Education proposed amendment to regulations regarding high school diploma criteria for students with IEPs.  A copy of the proposed amendment is here.

In a nutshell – the proposal is to allow students to score as low as 45 on “any” Regents test – except math and English – but must compensate that with a 65 or higher on any other regents exam.

I filled out the form and here is my response:


I am disappointed in the recommendation.  I don’t believe it addresses the problem created when the RCT was eliminated – and it will not enable more  students with disabilities to earn a high school diploma.  The Regents exit exam approach seems to be based on the assumption that a high school diploma is the entry ticket to college; rather than a high school diploma is an entry ticket to independent life – where one option is college.

The question is – what subset of students with disabilities is this proposal intended to support?  It seems it is designed to help those students who have challenges remembering the facts from history or science.  (the only Regents tests that the revised safety net applies to).  It does assume that the student has average skills in another area to compensate for his below average skills in science or social studies.  This is so unlikely a scenario that this proposal only applies to super subset of students with IEPs.   (Maybe you are thinking of the stereotypical student with Aspergers who is a math wiz earns 95 on the math regents exam to compensate for his 45 on the social studies exam.) 

This proposal does NOT address the needs of students with disabilities who in the past were allowed to take the RCT exam.    I thought the point of the proposal was to address the loss of that alternative exam.      And it does not address the challenges for students with disabilities in conceptual content like math.

This is like asking a person with one hand to play golf but you’ll still let them win with a 55% (or in golf it would be 155%).  Rather, let the one handed person play tennis and win with 85% .  Think of math (algebra) as the equivalent challenge to a student with autism and other developmental disabilities as golf is to a one handed person. 

What is needed is a different exam, not accepting a lower score.    As you see more students with autism being included in mainstream you will notice that in most cases math is the biggest challenge, It does not matter how good the teacher is, algebra is not something that most autistic brains grasp.  (Ask Temple Grandin)  It is like asking a deaf person to appreciate music. 

I was expecting you to come up with a math replacement of the RCT that will assess functional math skills.  Ideally you would approve a curriculum of business and consumer math, and create an exam for that.  That not only would be completely practical content,  but it would also enable them to have a diploma – which leads to a job and a better chance for an independent life.

That is what we want for our children with disabilities – an independent life. 

 PS – without getting a high school diploma many students will stay in high school, or in education programs funded by school districts until they are 21. (Think more cost for school districts).