BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is proposing the creation of two new high school diplomas that focus on math, science and vocational studies.
Such diplomas would better prepare students for available jobs in high-tech fields throughout the state such as engineering, as well as technical or vocational fields, like manufacturing, Schumer said. The diplomas would also increase high school graduation rates.
”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 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) diploma would provide education in high-tech fields, while the Career and Technical Education (CTE) diploma would focus on the education needed for technical skills and vocational jobs, Schumer said.
The senator said he is urging the New York State Board of Regents and the state education department to approve both diplomas. A letter has been sent to John B. King, Jr., the commissioner of education in New York and Merryl H. Tisch, Regents chancellor.
Schumer also urged the Board of Regents to work with education organizations and experts interested in providing contributions and suggestions on how to best incorporate changes in New York’s education system.
“It is critical that young adults across the state are college- and career-ready to meet the demands and job availability of today’s industries,” Schumer said. “Rapid growth in New York’s specialized manufacturing, biotechnology and nanotechnology 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.”
To highlight the urgent need for alternative pathways to graduation, Schumer presented county-by-county high school dropout and graduation rates throughout the state, as well as unemployment rates among young adults.
Schumer said in Niagara County the high school graduation rate was just under 86 percent, with about 5 percent dropping out. Unemployment for those aged 20 to 24 was around 11.5 percent.
A STEM diploma would add a second math or science Regents assessment to a student’s load while the CTE pathway would include one each of English language arts, math, science, U.S. history and government. The CTE program would incorporate career-focused education classes and curriculum into school programs, ones that could replace an elective or a core class, depending on the CTE approved substitution.
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 state Board of Regents must approve the two proposed diplomas. Depending on how quickly the board moves, the new diplomas could apply as soon as those entering high school next fall.
The ongoing process to implement these new diplomas will be addressed at upcoming Board of Regents meetings where the CTE and STEM advisory panels will discuss the issue, Schumer said.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.