Niagara Gazette

November 23, 2012

State officials consider alternative high school pathways, diplomas

The Associated Press
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — With state education officials expected to act early next year to give high school students more career-specific pathways toward graduation and the working world, the idea is being endorsed as a way to improve graduation rates and fulfill demand for skilled workers in emerging industries.

"Rapid growth in New York's specialized manufacturing, biotechnology and nanotech sectors should go hand in hand with an uptick in local job creation, but a shortage of qualified local workers means that's not always the case," by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a recent conference call with reporters.

He has written to Education Commissioner John King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to support plans to create two alternative high school diplomas, one focused on science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM, and the other on career and technology education, or CTE.

The state Board of Regents commissioned a study this year to examine CTE graduation options. The report is expected shortly, and the Regents plan to vote on the two diploma routes early next year, said Dennis Tompkins, spokesman for the state Education Department.

"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."

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.

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.

Big red number 135 Percentage increase in computer and electronic product manufacturing jobs in the state from 2008 to 2018.