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The Importance of 'Different' High School Diplomas

When New York State's Board of Regents adopted a new policy making it easier for students with individualized education plans to graduate from high school, it was a step in the right direction ("Fewer Hurdles to Graduation for Disabled Students in New York," The New York Times, Jun. 13).  Instead of having to pass five exams, IEP students will have to pass only Regents exams in English and math. Doing so would mean they could graduate with a local diploma, which is recognized by colleges, employers and the military.

I support this policy because it does not diminish the value of the more prestigious Regents diploma, and yet gives IEP students recognition for the work they performed in class.  That's a win-win outcome.  I've warned against watering down a high school diploma.  This differentiation avoids that danger.  Other countries have long separated students into different curriculums, with diplomas reflecting that distinction.  New York State is finally acknowledging reality.

There are those who will argue that tracking does irreparable harm to a student's self-esteem.  I disagree.  It's far more likely that self-esteem suffers when students are placed in a curricular track where they find themselves over their head.  College is not for everyone, nor should it be.  It's time to disabuse ourselves of the fantasy that "grit" is enough for success. Success has little to do with not trying hard enough and more to do with cognition ("Character and Cognition," The New York Times, Jun. 26).

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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