CHEYENNE — Other than the credits earned, the Hathaway Scholarship Program offers no incentives to high school students to take more rigorous courses, Richard Crandall, director of the Wyoming Department of Education, said Tuesday.
Crandall told the Legislature's Select Committee on Education Accountability during a meeting in Cheyenne he would like to change that and may recommend adjustments to the program in the future.
He noted that former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jim McBride had mentioned in a memo the possibility of weighting the Hathaway courses.
Crandall said other states are changing their course requirements for state scholarship programs.
Georgia, for example, will require students to take four rigorous courses beginning in 2017.
High school students can achieve academic rigor through advanced placement classes (AP), international baccalaureate (IB) and dual enrollments in high school and college.
Crandall said the state doesn't have a very robust IB diploma program.
He and other educators speculated that parents could be advising their high school students to take easier classes in order to keep up their GPAs for the highest scholarship.
"I'm just planting a seed," Crandall said.
Rep. Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne, said a high school student in her district offered a bill during Boys' State to include advanced placement participation in the Hathaway scholarship curriculum, but it didn't pass. Throne said she was excited that the Education Department is looking into that possibility.
Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, said the issue of whether to give weight to rigorous courses was heavily debated when the Legislature adopted the scholarship program in 2006.
"We did not do that," Nicholas said. The Legislature figured that good students with parents pushing them would be encouraged to take the harder classes.
"That's a pathway we already took and it would take quite a bit to jar it loose," Nicholas added.
Small high schools in the state do not offer AP classes, and some are not located where students can take courses through a community college or the University of Wyoming.
Crandall said he realized access was an issue.
He repeated that his idea was just to "plant a seed."
The Hathaway Scholarship Program has four levels:
- The Honors Level provides $1,600 per semester for the equivalent of eight full-time semesters. It requires a 3.5 GPA and 25 ACT.
- Performance Level provides $1,200 per semester for the equivalent of eight full-time semesters. It requires a 3.0 GPA and a 21 ACT.
- Opportunity Level provides $800 per semester for the equivalent of eight full-time semesters. It requires a 2.5 GPA and a 19 ACT.
- Provisional Opportunity Level provides $800 per semester for the equivalent of four full-time semesters. It requires a 2.5 GPA and 17 ACT. The student must begin at a Wyoming community college.