by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent

Last month, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) unveiled its vision for transforming the state’s graduation requirements. This followed a multi-year process in which the state engaged various stakeholders, including public school students and families across New York State. In addition, the Board of Regents convened a group in 2019 to make recommendations to reimagine “what a New York State diploma should signify.”

At June’s Board of Regents meeting, staff from the NYSED presented the department’s proposed vision for implementing the 12 recommendations of the NYS Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures, of which I was a member. Most notably, this includes transformative actions in four areas (please visit for more information):

Adopt the New York State Portrait of a Graduate

The Department is seeking to adopt a portrait that would include characteristics the state identifies that each graduate should possess, including being “critical thinkers, innovative problem solvers, literate across all content areas, culturally competent, socially-emotionally competent, effective communicators, and global citizens.”

Redefine credits

The second change would allow students to earn credits through means other than time-specified units. These would include work or service-based learning, dual credit programs like early college high school, earning a New York State seal or credential, traditional high school courses, approved career and technical education (CTE) programs, participation in the arts, and passing approved exams, including Regents exams.

Sunset diploma assessment requirements

New York State is one of the few states that still requires exit exams for graduation. The NYSED recommends separating assessment requirements from graduation requirements. This means that students would no longer have to pass Regents exams to graduate from high school. Regents exams would continue to be available as a measure of student proficiency, however; there would be additional ways for students to demonstrate their learning. Additionally, state-level assessments required by federal law would remain in place. This is one of the changes that has received the most news and attention as the passage of the Regents exam has been a staple of high school graduation requirements in New York State since 1878.

Move to one diploma

The Department recommends moving to a single diploma serving all students. Currently, there are several options available, which can make it confusing for families and students. Under the Department’s recommendation, the local diploma would be eliminated, the “advanced designation” would become a seal or endorsement, and school districts would be able to add additional seals and endorsements to diplomas such as civic readiness, career and technical education (CTE), and biliteracy.

This vision, if implemented, would mean significant changes over the next several years so we will continue to monitor developments. While some have wondered if this might be a lowering of standards, others have pointed out the months of test prep and rote learning associated with the Regents exams. Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa, referred to the plan as a “bold vision” while acknowledging that much work by the state and local schools remains to be done.

NYSED will seek public input and feedback on these four changes during a series of forums between July and October 2024. I encourage you to provide feedback in-person or online at In November 2024, the Department’s implementation plan will be presented to the Board of Regents with projected timelines, affected regulations, and other considerations. Ultimately, the state Board of Regents must approve any changes to the State’s graduation requirements.

This column appeared in the Register Star and The Daily Mail newspapers.

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