The long hours completing homework and walking in the overcrowding halls of Francis Lewis are finally paying off with a diploma in hand. The Class of 2019 will walk the stage at Hofstra University, shake hands with proud comrades, and become alumni on June 19, when seniors graduate. Receiving a diploma is a big step. In fact, the graduation rate of New York high schools has increased to 75.9 percent. Seniors will leave Francis Lewis High School for the last time on June 26 with their diplomas, but not all diplomas will be the same.
New York provides four types of diplomas: local, Regents, advanced Regents, and advanced Regents with honors. All demonstrate mastery across all levels of education within the high school curriculum.
“Local [is] the only type of diploma that there is under Regents,” guidance counselor Ms. Gailas said. “Local diplomas are mainly for the ISS population. It’s usually for students who have an IEP [Individualized Education Program].”
For a Regents diploma, a student needs to have 44 class credits and scores of a 65 or over for each of the English, math, science, and social studies Regents exams. In addition to the regular requirements, an advanced Regents diploma requires a 65 or over for all three of the math exams, two science exams (including Living Environment), and one LOTE [Language Other Than English] exam. Students are also eligible for Honors designation on their diplomas.
“You can get a regular Regents diploma or you can get a Regents diploma with Honors if you’ve had a 90 plus average over five Regents that you need in order to graduate,” Ms. Gailas added. “There is the advanced Regents diploma which you need a 65 or above in nine Regents exams, and there is the advanced Regents with Honors which you need a 90 plus average in the nine Regents in total.”
Each senior guidance counselor looks over a graduating student’s transcript to see what type of diploma they’ll receive. Guidance AP Ms. Palomino will then give a list of the graduating students to her secretary to have the diplomas made, and each counselor will manually place a seal on their students’ diplomas indicating the type.
“One year [there] could be a thousand kids in their graduating class and then the following year it could be 700 kids,’’ Ms. Gailas said. “The types of diplomas that each grade gets varies from year to year.”
In other states, there are different requirements for high school graduation because a majority of states don’t have a Regents system. Hence, they have different diplomas: standard, local, and college preparatory.
“It’s not considered a Regents,’’ Ms. Gailas said. “I’m not sure exactly what their diplomas look like or what their process entails, but I’m sure [they’re] not as simple as it seems.”
Some schools distribute diplomas during the graduation ceremony, yet others give them out during the summer.
“During graduation, there is so much going on with the actual ceremony,’’ Ms. Gailas said, “the chances of the diploma getting lost are very high, and we don’t duplicate diplomas. We want it to be efficient and have you come in on separate days. We just want to make sure it’s going to the right person.”
The Regents system has been used in New York state since 1885 to encourage eighth grade students academically. It wasn’t until 1878 when approximately 100 institutions administered high school Regents examinations.
“I understand why their [Public Education Board] is doing it,” Ms. Gailas added. “They want to make sure that the students understand the material. If they’re failing and they’re not understanding it, then how they will be able to handle it on a college level?”
Regardless of the type, a diploma illustrates one’s completion of high school as students are able to graduate knowing that they’re one step closer to the future.
“You’re able to master those course subject areas with at least a 65, and if you can’t, you’re demonstrating that you’re not college ready,” Ms. Gailas said. “That’s the goal – they want to make sure that all students are college ready and that you’re able to handle the rigor of what it’s like to go to college.”