In New York State, students are either on the Regents diploma track, or they are considered disabled.

Hi. My name is Richard Blumenthal. Thank you for visiting. I started New Yorkers for Diploma Choice because of what I saw happening every day in our schools. As a retired guidance counselor who served in both high school and middle school for 27 years, I've had the opportunity to know first hand how New York's regulations affect the real lives of our kids and their families. This particular issue stands out as one that can help more kids earn a high school diploma, while giving those in special education a realistic hope of passing more mainstream subjects. Add in the tremendous savings in property taxes and this powerful issue deserves the attention of our lawmakers.

Our kids need your help! You can send an email to Senate Majority Leader Skelos, Senate Minority Leader Sampson, Assembly Majority Leader Silver, and Assembly Minority Leader Kolb all at the same time.

First, copy and paste the following email addresses into the TO line of an email

Speaker@assembly.state.ny.us; skelos@nysenate.gov; KolbB@assembly.state.ny.us; sampson@senate.state.ny.us

Then copy and paste the following into the SUBJECT line of the email:

Please support Diploma Choice to help students and their families

Then, copy and paste the following message into the BODY of the email:

Dear Legislative Leaders,
In New York State, students are either on the Regents track, or they are considered "disabled".

I wish to bring to your attention to the urgent matter of diploma choice. Many people are not aware that New York State has instituted an ironclad requirement that each and every student be enrolled in a Regents level, college preparatory program, regardless of their future plans and without consideration of scholastic ability. Now, with the notable exception of students classified as disabled, there is only a one-size-fits-all Regents diploma for all students.

This has done severe damage to our kids and their families, causing many students to drop out and many others (10-15% of all students) to be classified as disabled in order to be eligible for special education services and special rules. As a leader among our elected officials, I respectfully request that you sponsor legislation that would direct the Commissioner of Education to establish a general diploma, alongside the Regents diploma. The general diploma, would be satisfied by any combination of Regents exams and Regents competency tests, without requiring a "disabled" classification. The general diploma will certainly help more students to graduate, help reduce the stress of their families, and provide substantial savings in property tax dollars for every school district of New York State.

Here's what would the bill might look like.

TITLE: Directs and authorizes the commissioner of education to establish requirements for granting general high school diplomas in all public schools

SUMMARY: Directs and authorizes the commissioner of education to establish requirements for granting general high school diplomas in all public schools and school districts where students may meet high school graduation requirements utilizing a combination of regents exams and regents competency tests.

BILL TEXT: AN ACT to direct and authorize the commissioner of education to establish requirements for the granting of a general high school diploma by all public school districts

The commissioner of education shall promulgate rules and regulations for the granting of a general high school diploma by all public schools and school districts. Such regulations shall include, but not be limited to, a provision that any student may meet the requirements of the general high school diploma by passing any combination of regents examinations or regents competency tests in any or all of the academic subject areas corresponding to the requirements of the Regents diploma.

For more information please visit http://diplomachoice.com

The children, parents and taxpayers of New York State will thank you!




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Please let your friends, family, and co-workers know about diploma choice.

Thank you for your help!


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What is Diploma Choice?


Many New Yorkers who graduated from public school prior to June 2000, will remember that there were choices in how a student could earn a high school diploma. Future plans, together with academic strengths and weaknesses, led to the right diploma choice for that student. Those who were more academic could work toward a college preparatory Regents diploma that required Regents exams and Regents level courses. Those who needed more time to master academic topics, or sought training for non-college occupations, could work toward the general diploma, using a combination of Regents and non-regents courses and exams. Either diploma could be used for post high school proof of graduation, entry to college, admission to vocational school, or military service. Parents, students and schools were able to choose the diploma path that fit the academic and career circumstances of each particular student.


Now, You're Either Regents or "Disabled"


Diploma choice in New York is now a thing of the past. It's been replaced by an ironclad requirement that each and every student be enrolled in a Regents level, college preparatory program, regardless of their future plans and without consideration of scholastic ability. Now, there is only a one-size-fits-all Regents diploma for all students. In New York State, students are either on the Regents diploma track, or they are considered disabled.

Eliminating diploma choice began in the 1990s, when all school districts were directed to implement changes that had been made to the Commissioner of Education's Part 100 regulations. Since the new regulations dictated that all students must earn a Regents diploma in order to graduate from high school, the general diploma, an option that had been available to all public school students, was to be phased out.

Even though New York State could change the regulations, it could not change the need of many students for an alternative to the college preparatory Regents diploma program. Students are not all the same. Each one has subjects in which they excel and ones they find difficult. For some, the Regents diploma is just right. For others, the Regents exams and Regents level courses are either too much of a challenge or may be a poor match for post high school plans that call for vocational instead of college preparation. Even after eliminating diploma choice, only a small percentage of students actually earn a four-year college degree. The vast majority make their living in jobs requiring a completely different type of training. Yet schools are directed to focus almost entirely on getting students prepared for college, when only a fraction will actually receive the degree.

The 2008 chart below shows how New York State compared with the rest of the country for students earning four year college degrees. Many thanks to The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems for permission to use this data.



The real story is that students are not only shunning college, but large numbers end public school before graduating. In some of New York's cities, nearly half of those entering 9th grade leave school without a diploma. Expressed in educational record keeping as either formally "dropping out" or "still enrolled" (though not attending), a district by district report showing the shocking numbers may be seen here: Public School District Total Cohort Graduation Rate and Enrollment Outcome Summary. It is appalling to think of so many young people without the work skills or credentials to even have a chance at meaningful employment.

When our schools force the Regents diploma on students, are they really forcing some students out of school and unprepared for anything but a life of poverty or crime?

How Special Ed Became the Go-To Strategy


Desperate for an alternative to the Regents level, schools and parents often resort to the only other option, special education which allows students to either earn a grade of 55 on the required exams, or be given an IEP diploma, of little use in the real world. Since New York State has set the Regents level as the standard for what a "normal" child should be able to achieve, it is only logical that students who are unable to succeed in any part of that academic program must be considered "disabled". In the absence of the general diploma, classifying a student as having a disability to gain entry into special education, is the go-to strategy. Incredibly, 10 to 15 percent of New York State's students are classified as "disabled". In some districts the number is even higher. Just imagine...New York State considers one in ten kids as "disabled." Now think of how those kids and their families feel. Sometimes, when kids are initially classified, they refuse to return to school. Sometimes parents seek the help of physicians who prescribe medicine to push children to meet the Regents level standards. The Carlat Psychiatry Report lists no less than 26 kinds of medicine prescribed for ADHD! To make room for some special education classes, students often lose the "exploratory" part of their school day. In middle school it may be courses like family and consumer sciences (home economics), art, music, technology (industrial arts). In high school it may be what are called electives or vocational training. For many of these kids, these are the exact courses they need and want.

Chris Myers Asch of the University of the District of Columbia and coordinator of The National Center for Urban Education sums up what happens when college becomes the sole goal of secondary education. In an article for Education Week, June 16, 2010, she wrote, "As a nation we need young people to become skilled carpenters, electricians, lab technicians, [practical nurses], and drill sergeants. By pushing college to the exclusion of other options, we indulge in what might be called, "the inadvertent bigotry of inappropriate expectations." If we are not careful, we can send a subtle message to students who fail to live up to those expectations or who choose other goals for themselves: "You're not good enough." And that can be as dispiriting and discouraging as "You're no good.""

Another Casualty: The Taxpayer


Using Special Education as a substitute for the general diploma costs a fortune, propelling property and other taxes higher and higher. The image below shows a part of the Fiscal Accountability Supplement for the School District of East Moriches in Suffolk County for the 2007-08 school year. The supplement accompanies the School Report Card and compares the cost of instruction for classified students and non-classified. School districts range from twice as much to what you see here, where it cost taxpayers four times as much to instruct classified students! That's because special education services are so teacher intensive.



Not included in the numbers above are additional expenses incurred when students are classified, such as the operation of the CSE, triennial testing, additional administration, etc. The general high school diploma will allow many students to avoid special education altogether. Other students, who are classified, may also benefit by taking some of the mainstream, non-regents courses, instead of the more expensive special education inclusion courses.

In this small district, just 24 students kept out of special education could mean a savings of one million dollars every year. Imagine what the savings in property and other taxes would be statewide!



All material contained herein © Richard Blumenthal, all rights reserved.