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Graduation requirements to remain the same

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Dale Thompson Of the Record staff

Parents who are concerned about increased graduation requirements can breathe easy.

On Tuesday, the Park City Board of Education voted 3-2 not to raise the graduation requirements for Park City High School.

As discussion about raising graduation requirements from 26 credits to 28 credits began, board member Vern Christensen read several studies about high school requirements that recommended a curriculum PCHS already has or exceeds.

He noted the class of 2005 had approximately 1 in 5 students would be considered a graduation risk if the requirements were raised. Christensen also mentioned that six percent of PCHS students were struggling with high stakes testing.

"I can see a lot of reasons to do it. At the same time I can see a lot of reasons not to," he said and brought up that many of his constituents were apprehensive about the increase.

Board member Lisa Kirchenheiter then read a statement from the high school that was strongly in favor of the increase.

"I would like to see some movement. Maybe not the 28 credits, but somewhere in between," she said.

Board member Kathryn Adair said with so many new programs being implemented, such as the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students, this may not be the right time for additional changes.

"I think we are premature with this," she said. "We don’t know that this won’t cause one additional kid to be left behind."

Adair also thought the district should raise standards internally before making it policy. She said before increasing requirements the district needs to try and educate students about the different ways they can earn credits.

"I’m willing to bet there are kids working right now who don’t know they can get credit for that," she said.

Board member Kim Carson said she was on the fence about the issue, and noted that with the new state requirements for a financial literacy course there would need to be an increase in requirements to maintain the number of electives they could offer to students.

Because of this, Carson was one of the board members to vote against leaving the graduation requirements at 26 credits.

A parent in the community, Jill Christensen, addressed the board with her views on the matter.

"I’m concerned that if we do, an unforeseen loss would be decreased enrollment," she said referring to parents who might relocate their students to private schools.

School board President, David Chaplin, expressed his own reservations.

"Let’s not rush into this just yet," he said.

Adair then made a motion to leave the policy concerning graduation requirements at 26 credits, a motion that passed 3-2. Chaplin, Adair and Christensen were in favor of the motion, while Kim Carson and Lisa Kirchenheiter opposed it.

Chaplin said in the upcoming years the board needs to pay close attention to drop out rates and the successes of struggling students. This information would be useful for when they decide to revisit the issue of increasing graduation requirements.

In other business: PCSD Curriculum Director, Merry Haugen, reported that Abdul Rasool will be arriving from Mauritius, off the coast of Madagascar, in February. Rasool was hired by the district last year to be the new IB Coordinator. He was having trouble with his visa, which delayed his arrival by over six months.

Tom Van Gorden, Director of Student Services, reported on the full-day kindergarten pilot at McPolin Elementary School.

He presented statistics on the first six months of the program that indicated students enrolled in the full day program consistently performed better than those in a half day program.

Chaplin said he supports the possibility of expanding the program to the other elementary schools in the district.

Lars Nordfelt, the District Mathematics coordinator, reported on selecting new math materials for PCSD.

On Jan. 12 a members of the community were invited to attend a presentation at Ecker Hill International Middle School, where textbook publishers discussed the benefits of their products.

Nordfelt was satisfied with the options that are available.

"Whichever one of these publishers we select we will have a good program," he said.

Kim Carson mentioned the selection committee should keep in mind what technology will be available with the textbooks, and if the school has the necessary tools to use those technologies.

The new textbooks will be selected in February


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