New York Could Require Students to Write Paper to Graduate

As part of their graduation requirement, students in New York state high schools could soon be asked to submit a 1,250 word paper to receive their diploma. The paper is part of the proposal by the state’s Education Department that seeks to align graduation standards with a set of skills the students will most likely need once they leave high school.

The Board of Regents debated the proposal earlier this week. If it is adopted, students who enter high school as early as next year would be affected. The research paper requirement would be the first of its kind in the nation, the Times Union reports and would apply to everyone who takes the English regents exam.

Education Commissioner John King explained that the paper would provide information about the students that a multiple choice test would not. Specifically, it would make it easier to assess their master of the English language.

The proposal is part of King’s goal to raise the dismal percentage of New York high school graduates — 35 percent — the state considers ready for college and career. There also is an incredible gap in what college professors and high school English teachers consider proficient. Eighty-nine percent of high school teachers consider their students ready for college, compared with just 26 percent of college instructors, according to a new survey from ACT, a nonprofit assessment company.

More than $70 million is spent annually in the State University of New York campuses on remediation for incoming freshmen. According to King, this amount could go down in prior to graduation students were asked to research and write a paper, thus giving them an opportunity to get better at something that many colleges would already expect them to know.

Although the minimum standards for the paper would be set by the state, specifics would be decided on a district-by-district basis.

There would be extra accommodations for special education students and English language learners. Students who need extra time could begin the paper in their sophomore year. Students would have to use four sources in their five-page papers, which would have to be completed before they take their Regents exams. A final vote on the proposed plan could come as soon as the June Regents meeting.

The research paper requirement could have also come in response to a growing movement in the state against what some see as an over-reliance on standardized tests. King has previously defended the tests as a positive step for students in New York.