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New grad requirements may be on the way
State adopted revised policy, and county system has to adjust
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The Effingham County Board of Education heard a proposal for new graduation requirements that would begin with the students entering ninth grade in the fall.

The system will require the same number of English, math, science and health/personal fitness courses as the new state requirements.

Curriculum Coordinator Judith Shuman said the state passed a new graduation policy in the fall, and when the state changes requirements, the system is required to adopt a policy that meets all the state requirements and can chose to have additional requirements for graduation.

“We are proposing a new policy to be approved locally,” she said. “This policy has been worked on by a committee of educators in the system.”

Shuman said the high school administrators had an opportunity to discuss the proposed policy with faculty, and it was placed on the Web site to allow comments to be emailed to her. She said she is still taking comments on the proposed requirements.

Shuman told the board where the proposed local policy differs from the new state policy.

“In a previous year, we had passed a requirement that students complete a full unit of economics and a full unit of American government as opposed to the half unit required by the state,” Shuman said. “We would like to see that continued. We believe students benefit from that full unit.”

Shuman said that the system would then be requiring four social studies units instead of three units required by the state. Shuman said another difference is under the requirement of three units of career, technical, agricultural, modern language or fine arts. The state requires students to complete three units in any of the areas.

“When the draft of the state’s policy was released, students were required to take three units in one area,” she said.
She said that was changed due to fear that a student in a small system would transfer to another small system that does not offer the same area of study.

“They were hesitant to lock them into a pathway for fear that they might not be able to get the credits that they need to graduate,” Shuman said.

She said the department of education has stressed the value of students completing a pathway and has encouraged local systems to guide students that way.

“Locally, we feel that can best be done through the graduation requirement itself,” Shuman said.

Locally students would be required to complete three units in one area to graduate.

Shuman said there is a board policy in place that would help students who transferred from another system in the junior or senior year to still graduate on time.

“The board graciously added a piece to graduation policy last year, which was the waiver policy,” Shuman said, “which allows a student who has met all the state requirements, and passed the high school graduation test, but maybe has fallen a little shy of our more stringent local requirements to go before committee to have some of those requirements waived as deemed appropriate.”

Assistant Superintendent Gregg Arnsdorff said a student could begin in a CTAE program in one system and transfer to another system that does not offer the program and take a modern language and fine art to complete the state requirements.

“What we are saying in ours to support our career academy that we have a strong pathways program and development that no matter where you come from you are going to complete a sequence of three,” Arnsdorff said.

Shuman said for the state university system, and the majority of colleges, there is an admission requirement of two units in the same language.

“That continues to be stressed,” she said. “What we are going to be doing is adding a note on the bottom of the registration slip for the rising ninth graders, which informs parents that is still a piece for admissions.”

Shuman said students planning to go to college will be advised of the need for foreign languages, and she feels it will also benefit non-college bound students to learn a foreign language as well.

The state requires a total of 23 credits to graduate.

Shuman said the state requirements allow for systems that are on a traditional six period schedule. The proposed local policy would require students to complete 29 credits to graduate.

The difference in required units adds four required electives locally, in addition to the four electives required by the state.

“The state board of education gave the local systems the option to allow three units of JROTC to substitute for the one unit of health and physical education,” Shuman said. “Locally, we are asking that be adopted.”

The policy would also allow for a local endorsement for scholar students.

Shuman said she hopes to have a final policy for board approval in January.

NOTE: The board of education also will hold a special called meeting on Tuesday at 4 p.m. to accept a Phase I site work bid for the new Effingham County Middle School. The public is welcome to attend.