High School Graduation Requirements

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The freshman class of 2015-2016 may face more rigorous graduation requirements that are aligned to state university admissions requirements.

If the proposed change were approved by the San Juan School Board later this spring, students will have to complete the courses required to attend California State University or University of California schools in order to graduate.

“The goal for the district is to have kids college or career ready,” said Rio Americano Principal Brian Ginter. “Doing that means setting high standards.”

However, requiring graduates to meet the A-G requirements would be a major change for most district students.

For the class of 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, only 53 percent of students at Rio and 34  percent of students district-wide met these A-G requirements at graduation. Statewide, 39 percent met the requirements. Girls at Rio were far more likely to meet the requirements, with 62 percent completing A-G courses compared with 45 percent of boys.

Without outright endorsing this proposal, Principal Brian Ginter said the district has room to increase the rigour of its graduation requirements.

“I’ve worked in four districts in my career in different states, and we don’t have as many graduation requirements in this district,” as the other districts, he said. “This would certainly move up the requirements.”

English teacher Nina Seibel said the change would pose too many barriers to success.

“I think it’s not a good idea because some kids just can’t make it all the way through Algebra 2 or two years of foreign language,” she said. “It will cause kids to not be able to graduate.”

Ginter, however, said students might be able to opt out of some requirements but the alternatives would still meet higher standards.

Without an alternative option, the change would be a big difference for students not on a traditional college track.

First of all, all students would be required to take two years of foreign language, which are now only recommended.

Students would also be required to take three years of math and go past Algebra, possibly to Geometry or Algebra 2,  rather than the current two years including Algebra. Students will have to take two years of science including biology and either chemistry or physics.

On the other hand, UC and CSU require only two years of social science while the district requires three and a half.

The language requirement might be altered by the district to allow students different ways of meeting the requirement, according to Ginter. The district could also decide to require social science classes beyond the A-G requirements.

Math could pose a challenge to many students. Currently only 17 percent of juniors in the district are proficient in Algebra II. It is not clear yet if students would be able to take alternative math classes.

In addition, UC and CSU do not require health, which could save students a semester or the cost of taking the course online.

Other electives, such as economics, are not required but fall under the banner of “college-preparatory electives.” Although only one year is required, students would most likely take electives to fill their schedule and unit requirements.

Districts across the state have been switching to A-G graduation requirements.

This district will take up the proposal later this spring, with a possible vote in May.  No current high school students would be affected.

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