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Guide to Secondary School

The Seal of the University of the State of New York

For information contact

The New York State Education Department
Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education
Information and Reporting Services
Room 863 EBA
Albany, N.Y. 12234
(518) 474-7965
Web site:


The New York State School Report Card is an important part of the Board of Regents effort to raise learning standards (see definition of learning standards in the Q & A) for all students. It is designed to provide information to the public on student performance on State tests and other measures of school and district performance. Knowledge gained from the school report card on a school’s strengths and weaknesses can be used to plan programs and curriculum and to allocate resources.

While the report card can assist in performing these important functions, misuse of the information on the report card can result in harmful programmatic decisions. When reviewing school performance, consider that student academic readiness, motivation, and family and community support vary among schools and significantly affect performance. Though the report card can indicate how well students performed against measured standards (e.g., State tests), it does not provide information about student performance on other measures valued by the community. As such, decisions about school programs are better made by combining information about performance with information gained by visiting the school. Reviewers of the report card should also note that small differences among schools and small year-to-year changes are not meaningful.

This year’s school report card is composed of complementary parts:

The Overview reports the performance of students in a school on English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science tests at the secondary levels; school enrollments; and school demographic data. It reports the performance of students who entered ninth grade in fall 1997 and fall 1998 on Regents English and mathematics examinations. The Overview also includes information on graduation rate for the 1998 cohort, which consists of students who entered ninth grade in fall 1998. School data and district data are provided in separate reports, the School Report Card and the District Report Card. The school report compares the school's results with those of similar schools (see definition of similar schools in the Q & A), and the companion district report compares school district results with statewide results. The Analysis reports on the same information but for students grouped by racial/ethnic group, disability status, gender, English proficiency status, income level, and migrant status.

The School Accountability Status report indicates whether a school met State standards (see definition of State standards in the Q & A) in 2000, 2001, and 2002. It also indicates if the school is considered in need of improvement for the 2002–03 school year and subject to interventions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The Comprehensive Information Report (CIR) presents three years of results on all State tests not included in the Overview and Analysis, including second language proficiency examinations, Regents competency tests, Regents examinations, the introduction to occupations examination, elementary- and middle-level social studies tests, and New York State Alternate Assessments for students with severe disabilities. The CIR also provides information on high school completers; attendance, suspension, and dropout rates; student enrollments and demographics; and professional staff.

Questions & Answers

Q. What are the learning standards?

A. The learning standards are descriptions of broad expectations of what students should know, understand, and be able to do at each grade level in seven subject areas as they progress through grades K-12 in New York State Schools. The Board of Regents established these standards.

Q. What is the relationship between the school report card and the learning standards?

A. Both are part of the statewide strategy for raising the level of student achievement. The strategy includes:

Q. What is the System of Accountability for Student Success (SASS)?

A. SASS is a system established by the State by which schools are held accountable for enabling their students to meet the State standards. Over time, all schools in the State are expected to increase the percentages of their students who demonstrate proficiency in English and mathematics. (Further information on SASS is available on the Department web site: SASS is being modified to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Student and school performance on State tests in the 2002–03 school year will be evaluated using the new accountability criteria based on these modifications. (Further information on NCLB is available on the Department web site:

Q. What are the State standards?

A. The Commissioner establishes a State standard for each year. The State standard is the level of performance a school is expected to achieve in order to demonstrate acceptable progress toward the State goal of proficiency for all students. Depending on the school’s performance, the school falls into one of three categories: meeting the State standard, below the State standard, and farthest from the State standard.

For 2001–02, the State standard at the secondary level is the percentages of the 1998 high school cohort (see definition of the 1998 cohort above) who met their individual graduation requirements in English and mathematics.

Q. What is expected of schools that do not meet the State standard?

A. Districts must develop a local assistance plan for schools that do not meet the State standard. The plan must include activities to improve performance of all students and to enable the school to meet or exceed State standards.

Q. What happens when there are too few students in a school to make a judgment about the school’s performance?

A. If a school reports fewer than 20 tested students, the school’s achievement or progress is determined by combining student results over two years in order to make the judgment on a minimum of 20 students. Data on small groups of students cannot provide reliable information as to what extent the school is providing a program that enables students in that group to meet the State standards. Release of these data would also jeopardize the anonymity of the students.

Q. What are similar schools?

A. Similar schools are schools throughout the State that serve similar students and have similar resources. Each school report card compares the school’s performance with that of similar schools. The following factors are considered in grouping schools: a) the grade levels served by the school, b) rates of student poverty and limited English proficiency, and c) the income and property wealth of district residents. Student poverty levels are indicated by determining the percentage of children in the school who participate in the free-lunch program.

Q. How is the performance of students with disabilities reported?

A. Results for students with disabilities are shown for all State tests and for diplomas earned. Students with disabilities may use modifications when taking State tests, if these modifications are specifically written in their individualized education program, so caution should be used when comparing results among schools. The performance of students with severe disabilities administered the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) is also shown.

Q. How is the performance of limited English proficient (LEP) students assessed and reported?

A. All general-education students, including LEP students, who first entered grade 9 in 1996–97 or later, will be required to score 55 or higher on the Regents English examination. Alternative-language editions of all required Regents examinations except English and of all Regents competency tests are available.

Q. What are the State’s minimum requirements for earning a high school diploma?

A. To earn a high school diploma, students who entered grade 9 before September 2001 must complete 20.5 units of study (one unit of study equals 180 minutes of instruction per week for one academic year). These units must include four in English, two in mathematics, four in social studies, two in science, one in the arts, one-half in health education, and two in physical education. The remaining five units of study may be in an elective of the student’s choice or, for a diploma with Regents endorsement, courses that are part of the student’s required "sequences." A "sequence" is a series of units of study in a particular subject that generally includes one unit of study beyond the core requirement. (For example, students who take living environment and Earth science to fulfill their core requirement of two units of study in science may take chemistry to complete a science sequence.) To receive a Regents diploma, students must complete two sequences in their subjects of choice. (See the School Administrator’s Manual on the Web at for more information.)

To earn a diploma, general-education students must also pass State Regents examinations or Regents competency tests. The Regents examinations a student must pass have been phased in over a five-year period and depend on the year in which the student entered grade 9.

Grade 9 Entry

Regents Examinations
Students Must Pass




English and mathematics


English, mathematics, global history & geography, and U.S. history & gov’t


English, mathematics, global history & geography, U.S. history & gov’t, and a science

To earn a diploma with a Regents endorsement, a student generally must have completed three units in a language other than English and passed a minimum of eight Regents examinations.

The Board of Regents also established safety net provisions for students with disabilities, allowing these students to earn a local diploma by passing Regents competency tests. In addition, the State offers districts the option to award local diplomas to students scoring 55–64 on required Regents examinations.

Q. What other revisions have been made to the graduation requirements?

A. Beginning with students who entered ninth grade in 2001, all students will be required to pass at least five Regents examinations and earn at least 22 units of credit, including four units in English, three in mathematics, four in social studies, three in science, one in the arts, one in a language other than English, one-half in health, and two in physical education. Higher requirements have been established for an advanced designation on the Regents diploma.

Q. How will school report cards help parents ensure that their children’s schools are meeting or exceeding the State standards?

A. The school report card shows whether or not schools are meeting the State standards. For those schools that are not meeting the standards, the report card shows the adequate yearly progress targets that the schools are expected to meet and indicates whether these schools are meeting their targets. Parents can use the school report cards to see how well a school is performing and the trends in student performance relative to the State standards.

Q. How can parents help their children meet higher standards?

A. Parents can help their children by talking with them, asking teachers what is expected at school, and monitoring their learning and homework.

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The State Testing Program
at the Secondary Level

The report card shows three years of results for all State tests at the secondary (high school) level. Regents examinations assess the achievement of students based on classes generally taken in grades 9 through 12. A review of the results of these tests helps schools to determine the quality of instruction they are providing to their students and helps students to make educational and vocational decisions. The Regents competency tests allow students with disabilities to show that they have the knowledge and skills required for graduation under the safety net. Second language proficiency examinations measure the performance of eighth- and ninth-graders in learning a second language. The introduction to occupations examination measures skills acquired in preparation for careers.

Attendance rate is the average daily attendance divided by the possible daily attendance. Schools with higher attendance rates generally perform better on State tests. Suspension rate measures the rate of school suspensions, which are the temporary exclusions of a student from school for disciplinary reasons for a full school day or longer. Dropout rate measures the rate of dropouts, which refers to any student, regardless of age, who left school prior to graduation for any reason except death and did not enter another school or high school equivalency preparation program or other diploma program.

For more information, call the Department at (518) 474-7965 or e-mail us at: Copies of report cards for all public schools and districts and information on the standards and new State assessments, and other information can be found at:

The State Education Department does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, religion, creed, disability, marital status, veteran status, national origin, race, gender, genetic predisposition or carrier status, or sexual orientation in its educational programs, services and activities. Portions of this publication can be made available in a variety of formats, including braille, large print or audiotape, upon request. Inquiries concerning this policy of nondiscrimination should be directed to the Department’s Office of Diversity, Ethics, and Access, Room 152 Education Building, Albany, NY 12234.

This page was last updated on April 10, 2003.

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