Natrona County School District officials are considering adding new graduation requirements starting with next year’s freshmen, and they seek community feedback.
Trustees propose increasing by three the required number of credits to graduate to 27.5, along with some additional requirements within those credits.
Students would need to earn one additional math and science credit for a total of four each under the current proposal. New proposed requirements also include one fine and performing arts credit, a one-credit capstone project and one credit in civic responsibility and financial literacy.
Students would choose and showcase for public review a capstone project such as something built, a performance, a work of art, industry certification or a research paper, according to the proposal.
The financial literacy and civic responsibility credit would be based on a curriculum that combines coursework with leadership activities, community service and civic involvement. Students could meet the civic responsibility requirement as part of another class.
The current proposal also states students would have to earn one credit outside the traditional classroom, such as internships, online learning or college coursework.
The total number of elective credits required would drop by two to 7.5.
When the proposed new requirements could go into place depends on feedback, according to Mark Mathern, NCSD’s associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
“I think it’s going going to depend on the feedback we get from the community and from our schools,” he said.
Trustees will review community feedback Monday and likely discuss graduation requirements at the work session before the next regular board meeting that day, trustee Rita Walsh said. The trustees will have to make a decision in December to implement the policy by next fall, she added.
The main reasons for changing the requirements is to prepare graduates for college and careers, teach 21st century skills and incorporate the new high school system and the Center for Advanced and Professional Studies, Mathern said.
NCSD officials are developing a new high school system with a planned shared high school campus called the Center for Advanced and Professional Studies where students will take classes in their fields of interest as they advance in their studies.
Trustees in recent months have discussed the problem that most students earn enough credits to graduate well before the end of senior year. A study suggested seniors take an average of about 4.5 out of a possible eight classes a day, Mathern said.
Secondary reasons for increasing credits include the fact that students can earn a total of 32 credits, but only have to earn 24.5.
“We’ve got the 32 opportunities. Let’s increase the expectations to reflect what we want our kids to know and be able to do,” Mathern said.
District officials have been asked if they’re worried increasing the math and science requirements will lead to more high school dropouts. Mathern said that 55 percent of the last year’s graduating class had earned four credits of science, and 45 percent earned four credits in math — though the requirement for both currently is three.
He said it’s important to prepare students for college entrance and high competition for science and technology jobs.
“So the idea of insisting on more math and more science, I think is an important one,” Mathern said. “Whether that needs to be for every student, I think is a question the board will have to wrestle with in terms of how they put forward this requirement.”
The public can send feedback by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the proposed new graduation requirements, visit bit.ly/SJb8hl.