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Supers concerned about graduation requirements

Posted: Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Valley superintendents are concerned the state's graduation requirements will hinder students from celebrating education like these Sargent 2012 graduates. Courier file photo by Lauren Krizansky

Courier staff writer

VALLEY — What Valley superintendents heard about changing Colorado graduation requirements earlier this year isn’t exactly what is on the table today.

After learning the Colorado State Board of Education (CSBE) is considering bringing various test scores and other detailed factors into the equation, several Valley superintendents spoke out against the proposed high school graduation guidelines on Tuesday during the Superintendents Advisory Council (SAC) meeting.

“I don’t believe the department has done a good job presenting this information,” said Moffat School District Superintendent Kirk Banghardt, specifically in regards to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) visit in February. “This needs to be delayed. I feel I was mislead by the department.”

The 2007 legislation forcing the high school graduation requirement changes stipulates the CSBE must adopt the new guidelines this month. Districts will have the 2013-14 school year to adopt local graduation requirements, which they will be required to implement with the ninth grade class of 2014-15 for their graduation in 2018, according to CDE. Local school boards may use their own locally developed graduation requirements if they “meet or exceed” any minimum standards or core competencies and skills the CSBE adopts.

One proposed standard that has the superintendents concerned is the ACT test requirements. According to CSBE Graduation Advisory Council, starting in 2014 students would have to score at least an 18 on the English test and 19 on the math test with a science score minimum to be decided. Based on the 10 districts with applicable 2012 ACT scores, the Valley averages in the subjects are 16.3 and 17.8, respectively.

“Let’s be honest,” Banghardt said. “How many kids would end up with a diploma the way that is structured?”

North Conejos School District Superintendent Kevin Schott agreed and said that it would create a bigger group of high school dropouts.

Other proposed requirements include minimal state testing scores; minimal SAT scores; advanced placement or International Baccalaureate scores; industry certificates and degrees; concurrent enrollment courses and verified standards-aligned capstone projects.

“This would be a great opportunity for students with adequate resources,” added Center Consolidated School District Superintendent George Welsh. “Or, students could end up suing the state if they don’t get a diploma.”

Since the bill passed six years ago, districts statewide have been busy working to meet the state’s requirements. Their actions include adopting content standards; developing postsecondary and workforce definitions and programs; implementing Individual and Career Academic plans (ICAP); and establishing criteria for an endorsed high school diploma allowing for automatic entry into a moderately selective Colorado institution of higher education.

“There has been a lot of discussion,” said CDE rural liaison Tina Goar. “This feedback and input is going to be important.”

Should the course continue to follow its path, on or before December 15, 2013, each student enrolled in a public high school will “enroll in and successfully complete a postsecondary and workforce readiness program,” according to CDE. Special education students are an exception, and each high school student’s final transcript will describe the student’s level of postsecondary and workforce readiness.

The CSBE expects the requirements to be in full swing for the 2020-2021 school year, ultimately affecting today’s sixth graders, Goar said.

The graduation requirement changes come after data collections suggested credit-based systems do not meet the needs of enough students, according to CDE. Today, local Colorado school districts grant students diplomas based on the number of credits accrued, which doesn’t always measure the level of knowledge gained.

“Far too many students are leaving high school having taken classes, but are not functionally knowing and applying the information and skills at levels needed to be ready for successes in postsecondary education or the workforce,” CDE wrote. “Also, despite quality counseling and teacher messages, students are not necessarily taking the most rigorous classes or realizing the connection between the choices they make today and future opportunities.”

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