The New York State Board of Regents will soon vote on an initiative that would create two new types of high school diploma, thereby offering more options for different types of students. One diploma would focus on STEM studies and the other would teach technical vocational skills.
The STEM diploma would include an advanced calculus course or extra science course for an advanced degree in technology. The CTE diploma would have students participate in specialized training programs, which could replace an elective or core course.
Some possible CTE substitutions for students to learn technical skills include a Federal Aviation Administration certification, a Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician certification or a National Occupational Competency Testing Institute Job Ready Assessment, Schumer said.
The lohud.com editorial board supports this initiative, citing the unwillingness of domestic employers to pay for such training.
Sunday’s “60 Minutes” report on the skills gap — three days later Schumer followed with his own related proposal to the state Board of Regents — noted that many U.S. manufacturers, competing with cheap labor the world over, no longer are willing to pay to train new workers for high-skill jobs; they expect school districts, community colleges, four-year colleges and other taxpayer-supported institutions to pick up all or some of the cost.
If approved, the new diploma programs may be in place as early as next school year.
This proposal appears to be a move away from the state’s recent emphasis on a single path for all students, an idea that was associated with the recent elimination of the less rigorous “local diploma”. Now there’s recognition that “one size doe not fit all”.
“The Regents understand that one size does not fit all students. Too many of our students are forced onto a single graduation pathway,” Tompkins said. “Their skills and potential are stifled and they end up unprepared for success in adult life.”
Changes are needed for graduates to meet 21st century job requirements.
Schumer said his support follows employers’ accounts of gaps between available positions and skilled applicants. Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, for example, often has trouble filling job openings for machinists and welders, skills found along the CTE pathway, he said.
The state Labor Department, meanwhile, projected a 135 percent increase in STEM-related computer and electronic product manufacturing jobs in the Albany area from 2008 to 2018, anticipating the addition of 1,800 positions.
“As upstate New York’s economy switches gears towards the advanced industries of the 21st century, we need our students and education system to keep pace,” Schumer said.
CTE and STEM students would be exempt from taking the “notoriously difficult” global history Regents exam.
The state Education Department has proposed requiring a CTE assessment in place of a global history exam that’s required for students pursuing a traditional diploma. Those on the STEM track would substitute a second math or science assessment for the global history exam.
Students still would be required to pass a course in global history and to pass English, math, science and U.S. history exams.