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State may change graduation requirements
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The Effingham County Board of Education heard details about the current draft to change the state graduation requirements Thursday.

Curriculum coordinator Judith Shuman said the state board of education will decide at its September board meeting if the change will be made.

“Of course, each time the state makes a change in their requirements, that requires that we at a system level at a minimum adopt their changes, but also look at what we as a local system want to do,” she said.

The draft is based in part on the American Diploma Project, a group of 29 states working toward a more rigorous diploma format, Shuman said. It establishes the minimum requirements, but local systems will still be allowed to add to the requirements.

“One of the major changes in rules is that it makes it possible for students with disabilities the option of earning a regular education diploma more often than they have that option available to them now,” she said.

She said if the state board adopts the changes, the new requirements will be effective with the incoming ninth grade class in the 2008-2009 school year.

Shuman said the proposed graduation requirement changes would eliminate the four tiers of diplomas currently used — college preparatory, college preparatory with distinction, technology/career and technology/career with distinction.

All students would have the same requirements to meet in order to graduate.

“As it does away with the tiers, it establishes more rigor for all students,” she said.

Under the current graduation requirements college preparatory students and technology/career students are required to earn 22 credits, while students earning a diploma with distinction are required to earn 24 credits by the state.

The current local standards are 29 credits for college preparatory and technology/career diplomas, and 32 credits for diplomas with distinction.

“The new rule would change that to 23 units for all students,” Shuman said.

The least effected area for the proposed change would be language arts, according to Shuman. All students would still be required to earn four units of language.

She said the new rule would require all students complete four units of math and science.

Currently Effingham County requires college preparatory students complete four units in both subjects, and technology/career students complete three units of each.

The state currently requires all students to complete three science courses and college preparatory to complete four math courses while technology/career students complete three.

“Mathematics has a significant change, mainly because the curriculum itself is changing,” Shuman said. “The entire state of Georgia is about to go through a change, and students will take mathematics I, mathematics II, mathematics III and either mathematics IV or an (advanced placement) or (international baccalaureate) course.”

Shuman said it would be possible for students with disabilities to earn a regular education diploma with three math classes and a support class instead of four math courses.

“They are not given that option now,” she said.

The state requirements for social studies classes will remain three units. The Effingham system currently requires four units.

Currently, technology/careers students are required to complete one unit of fine arts, technology career preparatory or a foreign language, and college preparatory students are required to complete two units of a foreign language.

Under the new requirements all students would be required to complete three units of career technical agricultural education, and/or modern language/Latin and/or fine arts.

Shuman said students would not be required by the new standards to complete a concentrated course of study with these courses as long as they have three units, but she said the state recommends the local system guide students through a pathway.

Students entering the University System of Georgia are required to have two units of the same foreign language.

“The rule is still under discussion,” Shuman said.

She said when the state acts on the rule the system will look further into the ramifications it will have for the system.