Imagine spending years getting through and gradating high school and then being told you wasted your time.

Imagine spending years working to get through high school, graduating and then being told, you've wasted your time.

That's what many local people say happened to them and they asked Pat Taney at Messenger Post's news partner, News10NBC to look into it for this week's Good Question report.

Mary Scott from Rochester has a daughter with a learning disability who worked hard to get through high school.

"I remember a lot of sleepless nights," Scott said. "We would spend three to four hours with homework because, despite my daughter's best effort, she could not get the material."

After years of struggle, Scott's daughter graduated and received the Individualized Education Program (IEP) certificate.

All was well, until her daughter, who did not want to be identified for this story, went to look for jobs. She was offered several positions but those offers were quickly taken back.

"When they got her diploma they said this is not a real diploma, we can't hire you," Scott said. "She walked out of there in tears."


IEP or Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) certificates are for students who get by in school, but can't pass Regents courses or exams.

New York state has made it clear.

"Both of those credentials are not diplomas," said Cynthia Kerber-Gowan with Nazareth College's School of Education.

Kerber-Gowan says that's unfortunate.

"We have taken away students abilities to show that they understand things and know things, maybe not at a Regents level, but are still capable students."

The New York State Education Department was hoping employers, especially those hiring at basic, entry-level positions, would accept the certificates but few of them are.

"I think that's very wishful thinking to assume business owners are keeping up with all of these random terms and certificates," Kerber-Gowan said. "Employers know the high school diploma and that's it."


The certificates are given out to students who often times have a learning disability, but may not qualify for adult services. That leaves many of them with few options.

"You're sort of stuck," Kerber-Gowan said. "There are not a ton of programs for you."

The State Education Department realizes there is a problem and has made changes to these programs over the years. In fact, just recently school superintendents were given more leeway to help these students get actual diplomas.

Students with a disability still take Regents courses and exams but are given a break if they don't score 65 or higher.

This is especially important, advocates say, for students who may be good at English or writing but not so good at math and science.

Unfortunately, this policy was not in place when Scott's daughter was in school. She's now hoping stories like this one educate local employers that a IEP or CDOS certificate doesn't mean a person is not capable of working and earning a living

"It's not anything my daughter did wrong," Scott said. "The state does not take the time to educate more people about these certificates so these kids won't get out of high school and feel like they just wasted their time. My daughter feels this way, telling me she should have just dropped out."