Meeting of the Board of Regents | June 2008
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
Rebecca H. Cort
Individualized Education Program (IEP) Diplomas for Students with Disabilities
June 4, 2008
Goals 1 & 2
Issue for Discussion
Should the Board of Regents consider revisions to State policy regarding the high school individualized education program (IEP) diploma?
Reason for Consideration
This information will be shared and discussed with the Committee at its June 2008 meeting.
In 1984, the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education were amended to authorize school districts to award a high school IEP diploma to a student with a disability as another option to awarding a local certificate based upon attendance. In 1999, the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education were further amended to add standards-based criteria for the award of an IEP diploma and to establish that the local certificate would cease to be available after February 2005.
Criteria for award of a high school IEP diploma, as established in section 100.9(a-f) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, are as follows:
- Prior to awarding any high school IEP diploma, the school must adopt written policies and procedures ensuring that students with disabilities are provided appropriate opportunities to earn a regular high school diploma.
- An IEP diploma may be awarded to a student with a disability at the end of the school year in which a student turns age 21 upon finding that a student has achieved the educational goals based upon the appropriate level of learning standards established by the Commissioner, as specified in the student’s current IEP.
- An IEP diploma may be awarded at any time after a student has attended school or has received a substantially equivalent education elsewhere for at least 12 years, excluding Kindergarten, and upon a finding that such student has achieved the educational goals based on the appropriate level of the learning standards, established by the Commissioner, as specified in the student’s current IEP.
- An IEP diploma must be identical in form to the diploma issued by the school district, except that the front of the IEP diploma must include a clear annotation to indicate that the diploma is awarded on the basis of the student’s successful achievement of the educational goals based on the appropriate level of the learning standards, established by the Commissioner, as specified in the student’s current IEP.
- If the student receiving a high school IEP diploma is less than 21 years of age, the diploma must be accompanied by a written statement of assurance that the student named as its recipient shall continue to be eligible to attend the public schools of the school district in which the student resides without the payment of tuition until the student has earned a high school diploma or until the end of the school year of such student's 21st birthday, whichever is earlier.
Section 200.5(a)(5)(iii) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, requires that prior to the student’s graduation with an IEP diploma, written notice be provided to the parent which indicates that the student continues to be eligible for a free appropriate public education (FAPE) until the end of the school year in which a student turns age 21 or until the receipt of a regular high school diploma (Regents or local diploma).
The IEP diploma is intended for students with the most significant disabilities as recognition of their successful achievement of their individual educational goals based on the appropriate level of the learning standards as specified in the student's current IEP. While earning an IEP diploma may be an important milestone for a student, it is a diploma that is often not accepted by employers, the military, institutions of higher education, business/trade schools or apprenticeship programs.
Approximately one percent of New York State (NYS) students (which represents approximately eight percent of students with disabilities) have significant cognitive disabilities and take the New York State Alternate Assessment. These are the students that would be expected to earn IEP diplomas. However, data show a greater than expected percent of students with disabilities exiting school with IEP diplomas.
- 2001 total cohort: 1.87 percent of students (or 14.2 percent of students with disabilities) NYS exited school with an IEP diploma after four years in high school. After five years, the percentage was 2.4 percent.
- 2002 total cohort: 2.0 percent of students (or 14.8 percent of students with disabilities) exited school with an IEP diploma.
Data also indicates significant variations in the percentage of students with disabilities exiting school with IEP diplomas based on need/resource capacity. Students with disabilities in the Big Five City Schools (Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) and those in high need areas are more likely to receive an IEP diploma, more likely to drop out of school and less likely to graduate with a regular high school diploma than those in other areas of the State. For students with disabilities in the 2002 total cohort graduating after four years, the data is as follows:
- 20.5 percent of students with disabilities in New York City (NYC) exited school with an IEP diploma.
- 13.5 percent of students with disabilities in the other Big Cities (Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Yonkers), exited school with an IEP diploma.
- 23.9 percent of students with disabilities in the rural high need districts exited school with an IEP diploma.
- 16.6 percent of students with disabilities in the urban high need districts exited with an IEP diploma.
- Four (4) percent of students with disabilities exited school with an IEP diploma in low need districts.
Parent and student advocacy organizations and members of the Commissioner’s Advisory Panel for Special Education Services have raised the following policy implementation concerns regarding the IEP diploma, including the following:
A decision by the Committee on Special Education (CSE) that the student is expected to achieve an IEP diploma often results in lower expectations for that student.
Too often, the decision about the type of diploma the student is expected to achieve is made earlier than necessary in the student’s educational career. Once this decision is made, such students may not be enrolled in courses that would lead to high school credits necessary for graduation with a regular high school diploma.
- Students and parents are often not aware that an IEP diploma is not considered a regular high school diploma.
Without a high school diploma, a student’s access to postsecondary training, education and employment options is limited.
The IEP diploma identifies the individual as a student with a disability, raising concerns about the identification of an individual with a disability in the student’s transcript.
Over the past several years, the Department has issued written guidance regarding the IEP diploma that states:
A decision as to the type of diploma a student is expected to earn should not be made early in a student’s school career.
All students with disabilities must be afforded the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, if appropriate.
Each student’s IEP, reviewed and revised annually, is the means to ensure that students with disabilities have access to and participate and progress in the required courses, electives and assessments.
- Discussions about the different types of diplomas and the requirements for each should be a part of transition planning and services. Transition planning and services are required by law and regulation and are designed to prepare students with disabilities for living, learning and working as adults.
- Schools may use the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Skills Achievement Profile for students with disabilities working towards an IEP diploma. While not a separate high school exit credential, the Profile provides documentation of a student’s employability skills based on industry standards and can be provided to a potential employer.
The following discussion questions are posed to the Regents for policy consideration.
- Should the IEP diploma be replaced with an alternative high school exiting credential (such as a High School Career and Technical Skills Achievement Credential) that is available to all students, including students with disabilities? This credential could be based on an assessment of the student's capacities in relation to the NYS Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Learning Standards using the Department developed Career and Technical Education Skills Achievement Profile that is based on industry standards. Such a credential could indicate different levels of achievement such as job entry level achievement or specific occupational achievement designations.
- Should the IEP diploma be continued, but regulations amended to limit the award of this diploma to students who take the New York State Alternate Assessment?
- Should the name of the IEP diploma be revised to omit use of the word “diploma” and replace it with a comparable term such as “IEP High School Completion Credential” to differentiate it from a diploma that signifies completion of high school study standards?
Recommended Next Steps:
To address the immediate concerns raised by stakeholder groups, VESID will:
- Include specific information regarding the IEP diploma in the Parent’s Guide to Special Education (under revision) and in its proposed mandatory prior written notice (notice of recommendation) form.
- Continue its work with the VESID funded Transition Coordination Sites to disseminate information to parents and schools on the IEP diploma and the use of the Skills Achievement Profile and to develop and disseminate questions and answers that parents can ask when making decisions about the type of diploma their child is expected to achieve.
- Provide information to CSE chairpersons on considerations for determining the type of diploma a student is expected to achieve and information that should be shared with parents and students regarding the IEP diploma.
- Work with the Office of Curriculum and Instruction to promote increased access of students with disabilities to career and technical education programs.
Timetable for Implementation
This issue of the graduation criteria and the “Safety Net” for students with disabilities is scheduled for discussion by the EMSC and VESID Committees of the Board of Regents in the fall of 2008.