Increased graduation requirements: to be, or not to be?
Like Goldilocks and her porridge the board is looking for the number of graduation requirements that is just right.
The Park City Board of Education met Tuesday for a work session that included a discussion about increasing graduation requirements from 26 to 28 credits. This includes new state-required courses in computer technology and personal finances.
Superintendent Dave Adamson expressed some misgivings about the proposal. "I’m concerned about those students who would give up, who would see this as an insurmountable task," he said.
Park City High School Principal Hal Smith said increasing the graduation requirements would help with the financial sustainability of the district. He added, "Graduation requirements are no doubt an emotional issue. I don’t think there’s a magical number by any means."
Smith does feel that the district has an obligation to raise the bar. "We’d be derelict in our duties if we didn’t go to parents and say we’d like to do more for your students," he said.
Vern Christensen, school board member, shared some of the concerns parents had expressed to him, "Are we letting our kids be kids? It’s a question I’ve had a number of parents ask me."
School Board Member Kathryn Adair said many parents she spoke with were worried that the increased requirements would prevent struggling students from going to college. "The bitter truth is that earning power comes from a college degree, not a high school diploma. My concern is keeping kids from getting into college," she said.
A student perspective was sought from junior Tyler Scott who said it was difficult for him to fill all the credit requirements and still take the classes he wants. "Even some of the higher level students might have a hard time figuring things out," he said.
The board will make a final decision regarding the graduation requirements at their next meeting on Jan. 17.
A report was given about the results of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Tim McConnell, Director of Human Resources for PCSD, reported that the district consistently performed higher than the national average. He noted a drop in language scores and attributed it to heavy reliance on spell check and grammar features available in word processing programs.
McConnell also reported on the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test. There are still 18 seniors out of 313 that need to pass the test. They will have one more opportunity to take the UBSCT between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2.
Retirement incentives were discussed by Von Hortin, Business Administrator for PCSD. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board has set a new standard that state school districts must set aside a certain amount of money per teacher for post employment benefits. These benefits currently offer 24 months of coverage after 10 years of employment as the minimum. The maximum offers 48 months of coverage following 30 years of employment.
The school crisis plans appear to be in good shape according to Steve Oliver, Support Services Director for PCSD. Crisis plans were due on Oct. 1, 2005 from each school. "I think the plans are all very complete this year," he said.
Oliver also brought up the recent gas leak at Park City High School and congratulated PCHS staff for handling the situation well, "It was all rehearsed and everyone knew what they were doing. It was a great display of crisis management," he said.
High school reconstruction is going smoothly. "It’s all progressing as planned and pretty much on schedule," said Oliver.
They are just a little pressed for time. "We’ve got to get out of there by Jan 30 and it’s getting tight," he said referring to the move to portable classrooms.
Merry Haugen, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for PCSD, and Judy Tukuafu, Director of Community Education, reported on summer school and it’s impact on students. Haugen’s biggest concern was measuring progress. "How can we assess and measure summer school effectiveness?" she asked. She noted that factors, such as a parent’s willingness to read to their child. impacts success.
Tukuafu said the High School summer program continues to go down in size, this is in part because of the after school remediation program.
Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative requires the state to track drop-out rates. The state of Utah is adopting the same definition of ‘drop out’ used by NCLB and the National Council of Educational Statistics.
Hortin reported the definition of a drop out has changed from someone who declares they are leaving school to anyone who leaves school and it can’t be determined where they’ve gone. Students who do not graduate on time are also considered drop outs. Hortin notes the documentation methods are changing and it has holes.
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Joe Biden has appeared in Park City on fundraising trips a handful of times. But before that, he frequently came to town for the Senators’ Ski Cup, an annual benefit for Primary Children’s Medical Center.