Regents Degree Requirements Could Negatively Impact Poor, Minority Graduation Rates

Elizabeth Lazarowitz, New York Daily News, February 5, 2009

Tough new requirements for high school diplomas could send city graduation rates plummeting, especially among poor and minority students, advocates said Wednesday.

Starting with this year’s ninth graders, general education students will have to earn a Regents diploma to graduate, not the current less rigorous local degree.

Those requirements would have left nearly 10,000 of last year’s graduates without a diploma, severely limiting their college and career options, according to a study by the Coalition for Educational Justice.

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While graduation rates have risen in the past decade, only 37% of students earn a Regents degree, which requires passing five subject-specific exams with a score of 65 or higher.

Just 28% of African-American and 26% of Latino students earned that degree last year, while more than half of white students did. Only a third of students at high-poverty schools were awarded a Regents degree, the CEJ study showed.

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The Department of Education is working with advocates to find ways to close the achievement gap, said Sabrina King, DOE chief academic officer.

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