Graduation rules for current high school seniors and juniors were already set in December, when the legislature extended non-test pathways to a diploma. Those students still have to pass the required 20 classroom credits and take all state “end-of-course” tests.
But if their state test scores are not sufficient, they can graduate by hitting any two of nine markers, including 93 percent attendance, a 2.5 GPA, a “capstone” project, or 120 work/community service hours. The attendance option is only available to the Class of 2019. But there’s also an SAT/ACT graduation option, and a career tech option.
2021 and beyond
The decisions coming this spring affect the current sophomore class and younger students.
Late last year, the state school board recommended that those students be allowed to earn a diploma by showing skills in a variety of ways (rather than just tests) in five areas — English, math, technology, other academic subjects and leadership/social development.
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For example, a student might meet the English requirement via a state test but meet the math standard via their GPA in school classes, and qualify in their other subjects and leadership via a deep project called a “culminating student experience.”
This week’s debate
The state school board will decide Tuesday whether to add DeMaria’s tweaks to those 2021-and-beyond recommendations. Here’s a quick summary of what DeMaria suggested, after consultation with business leaders and a state task force:
** The state would train teachers and others how to evaluate projects and other non-test graduation options, using a rubric aimed at reducing bias and subjectivity in scoring.
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** A random sample of those projects and other “demonstrations of learning” would be re-scored by outside parties to check for differences. Schools’ scoring practices would be periodically reviewed with the potential for “corrective action in cases where significant discrepancies are found.” The corrective action would be limited to changing school procedures going forward, not taking away diplomas that had been awarded.
** Schools would report via the EMIS data system which pathway each student used to meet English and math graduation requirements, so that data can be tracked.
** DeMaria suggested an expanded “early warning and intervention protocol” to identify students who are struggling as they transition from middle school to high school, and to identify specific intervention strategies to help them develop better math and English skills.
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DeMaria said he is excited by the recommendations, and thinks they meet the bar the state legislature asked for last year.
“I fully believe that they meet …the requirement that the proposal reduces reliance on state testing, encourages local innovation and supports student readiness for a career, college and life,” DeMaria said.