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The Blue Ribbon Commission

by Robin Mitchell

To all of our Excel Supporters, we wish you the warmest of seasonal greetings!

On November 13th, 2023, the long-awaited Blue Commission Report was released by Commissioner Rosa, and Chancellor Young from the Board of Regents. The report signified the culmination of a four-year process that examined what a New York state diploma should signify and how it should ensure equity for every student in the K-12 system. It attempted to answer the following questions:

“Does the current graduation system work for all students?” and, if not,

“What would a system look like that did work for all students?”

The answer is definitive. Not less rigor, but instead…greater flexibility. The report should be applauded. It is a wonderful example of deep collaboration between many stakeholders that have together generated a roadmap for the future of our high school graduation model in New York State. The key priority areas of the report focus on four specific ideas:
A.) There should be multiple pathways that lead to one high school diploma.
B.) There should be flexibility in how we assess students. Test-based models don’t work for everyone.
C.) Life Ready Credentialling should be included within the high school instruction model.
D.) Instruction, curriculum, and assessment should be culturally responsive and relevant to diverse groups of people, including non-compulsory age students.
The report goes on to provide twelve recommendations for accomplishing the four priority areas. They include replacing the three diploma types with one diploma, ensuring that career and technical education (CTE) is available to every student, developing performance base assessment to satisfy assessment requirements for some students, and tailoring graduation requirements to address unique circumstances. The overall main idea is to build an education that is flexible and responsive to the needs of every student.

Put simply, testing doesn’t work for every student. It can’t, and the report acknowledges that truth.

Which leads us the Excel Center. We believe fundamentally that our adult education system has the same need for a flexible approach to education. As of today, an adult in New York State without a high school diploma, needs to be one of the following.

A.) A good test taker.
B.) Approaching college ready, with resources to have elongated enrollment at a community college to receive high school diploma along with associate degree or
C.) Able to work with significant levels of independence to complete an online NEDP program.
Those are the pathways. They are good pathways, and they work for some students, but they don’t work for everyone. 

Our questions are as follows:

• What happens to the adult students that aren’t developmentally ready for any of the pathways on offer?
• What happens to adult students who struggle with tests?
• What happens to adult students who don’t want to go the elongated college route?
• What happens to the adult student that needs a more structured and sequential approach?
• What happens to adult students with unique needs, like looking after a young child?
The Blue-Ribbon Commission Measures are a huge step towards equity in the K-12 space, but what about those learners that have already aged out of this benefit? We are excited as we read this report because it demonstrates a move towards more flexible thinking in our state. It is exciting but we are now calling for the same process of thinking in our adult education space.

The Excel Center is waiting.

Here is a link to the report: