PE Schools Eye Credit Requirements

Published 4:17 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2011

PRINCE EDWARD – County high school students have one of the highest graduation requirements in terms of required credits in the area but the school ranks 122nd out of 134 schools for on-time graduation (according to 2010 figures).

Most recently, two of Prince Edward's three schools achieved state accreditation and the high school fell short with on-time graduation.

School officials weighed the matter at their October meeting.

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At least part of the answer could be found in the requirements for a standard diploma (28 credits) and for an advanced diploma (30). Many schools in the region hold to 22 credits for a standard diploma. (The state has increased the standards for the 2011-12 school year from 24 to 26 for an advanced diploma.)

“We know in order for us to truly be able to meet our on-time graduation requirement by the state and by the federal government, we do need to make some changes,” detailed Internal Lead Partner Michelle Hairston.

Ms. Hairston cited that the County is next to last in the region and noted that they recognize that there is a need for a sense of urgency, that they have to act quickly.

The state standard is 85 percent or higher. The federal standard (for Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP) is 80 percent using a slightly different calculation.

Prince Edward was next to last in on-time graduation rates in Region Eight at 74.9 percent (2010 data), according to data presented at the October school board meeting. Charlotte had the highest at 89.9 percent, followed by Cumberland at 87 percent. Lunenburg registered the lowest at 68.8 percent.

County school board members, having agreed to reduce the credit requirements for incoming ninth graders earlier this year to the state minimum level, discussed doing the same for current tenth graders. In the end, the board put the issue on hold for the moment pending additional information.

Should the board change the requirement, the impact would be in electives. As proposed, the number of electives for a standard diploma would be reduced from eight to four; the number of electives for a standard technical diploma would be reduced from four to zero; and the number of electives for an advanced studies diploma would fall from five to three. Modified standard and special IEP diploma requirements would remain the same.

“The core content classes and the verified credits would remain the same, but the elective classes would just change, ” Ms. Hairston said.

Board member Dr. Ellery Sedgwick said he was okay with the phase-in, but that he still has fundamental questions about the impact. If they remain with an eight course schedule, he cited, in three years its 24 credits.

“That means anybody with a standard diploma would be able to graduate in three years if they could take their government and 12th grade English early,” Dr. Sedgwick said. “What's that gonna do to us? What's the impact gonna be on the elective courses. Is that gonna change the configuration of our vocational program?”

Dr. Sedgwick also questioned the number of students who now fail to graduate on time because of the graduation requirements.

“My guess is that this is by far not the only factor involved,” he said.

School Board Chairman Russell Dove cited that there were nine or ten children who were at the crux, but didn't make it this past year. Dr. Sedgwick questioned if that can be done through some other means of credit recovery without affecting everyone else in the school.

Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Laura Williamson cited several areas offered where students may be able to accrew additional credits for graduation: summer credit recovery, offered in the past for students failing English nine or 10, summer remediation and SOL retake, fall or spring after school remediation with an SOL retake; retaking a failed subject and taking the SOL, taking an on-line course (possibly through a community college), an electronic course delivery model, have in the past offered an extended year for a select group of students, the option of a locally-awarded verified credit, an option in social studies and science (but requires the student pass the subject, retake the test at least twice and achieve a score of at least 375).

Dove suggested that they use those strategies and do “whatever else we can.”

Board member Susan Lawman questioned the impact on having students with a standard diploma also being a vocational completer. (The idea the board has outlined is for students to complete a specific vocational course program, though students may not be currently held to that.)

School board member Harriett Fentress, noting that they have been talking in the past couple of meetings about the impact, said they need to be presented with some factual information.

<!– 1upcrlf2 –>”We are saying what the impact is…I think we need something definite,” she said.

Board member Linda Leatherwood assessed that the standards need to come down, but added that she is not sure they need to come all the way to the bottom (minimum).

In the end, with a list of questions, the matter was tabled without a vote.