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NY State Considering Allowing Technical, Skilled Trades as Core Subjects for High School Graduation

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In New York, the state Board of Regents is considering allowing high school students who take technical and career oriented classes to replace one of the five core regents exams with a “career pathway assessment.”  Advocates say that the change would positively affect dropout rates and test scores, and help students toward the careers they want the most.  The changes will be considered at the board’s meeting later this month.

Speaking at a career day sponsored by International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 17, Kathy Heinle, Director of Career and Technical Education for Buffalo Public Schools, told Buffalo’s WIVB:

“It’s the ‘Ah-ha moment.’ They can touch it, they can feel it. They know why they need Trigonometry or Algebra when they have to line up a roof, or put studs on a wall. When they are trying to figure out the electrical current, they know they need their science, and they need their math,”

The changes would further help the success of the state’s technical education programs by customizing the regents exams to fit a career path.  In the City of Buffalo alone, 5,000 students participate in the programs, which display an impressive 88 percent graduation rate.  

Jim Smolinski, who helps manage the IUOE’s training program, notes that the secure, well-aying careers offered by the trades would be more easily pursued if the changes are enacted.

“I would say most of the trades are going to be above $20 an hour, plus maybe a $10 or $15 an hour benefit package on top of that,” he told WIVB. “So a total package, probably $30-$35 an hour is where they are looking at starting out.”

Currently, high school students in New York state must show proficiency in Math, English, Science, U.S. History, and Global History (the five core regents exam) to graduate.  The new plan would allow students in technical programs to claim applied learning in a field such as welding or automotive repair and replace one of the regents.  

State Regent Robert Bennett told WIVB that he favors the plan, but notes that exemption from the Math and English cores should not be an option.

Because anybody that is graduating from a New York high school, no matter what they are doing, college or career, should have basic fundamental skills in math and English, and I don’t think anybody would want us to forgive that under any circumstances.”

Bennett cautions that the plan is not a “knock” on four-year colleges. Rather, it is being designed to give students more choices.  If enacted the rule change would go into effect for next year’s class of high school freshmen.


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