Proposal to lower graduation credit requirement gets extensive discussion

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An administration proposal to reduce the number of credits needed for high school graduation in the Kenosha Unified School District was discussed in a marathon set of meetings Tuesday night.

And yet there will be more discussion of the proposal, which is being raised as a way to address the funding shortfalls the district is anticipating due to changes in the state budget. On Wednesday, April 20, a special School Board budget meeting will be held. After that meeting, committee members will be presented with information on the financial impact of the changes. They will then be able to discuss and ask questions and make their recommendation to the full board to go forward or go back to the drawing board. The regular Board Meeting will then take place on Tuesday, April 26.

Currently students must earn 26 high school credits to graduate and complete four credits in the academic areas of English, math, science and social studies, according to a statement by superintendent Michelle Hancock included with the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.  The new recommendation is 23 credits including four English, three Math, three Social Studies and three Science credits.  Students earning a  diploma with honors distinction would be required to complete 4 credits of advanced placement courses during their sophomore, junior and senior year.

The administration also is proposing a maximum credit attainment of 28. Hancock’s agenda statement said records show that some Unified students were earning well beyond the 26 required credits up to 37 credits.  “Most districts have a maximum number of credits each student can earn based on the high school schedule,” Hancock’s statement said.

Parents in attendance Tuesday were upset because their high school junior students were notified in their advisory sessions by their counselors that they needed to drop a class next year. There also were many high school students in the audience holding up signs that read such sentiments as: “Don’t Compromise My Future,” “Let Us Learn,” “College or McDonalds?,” “Let Us Keep Our Credits,” “College Doesn’t Require Gym,” “Don’t Cap Our Credits,” “Why Hold Us Back?,” and “Less Knowledge, No College.”

There was then time for the audience members to make their comments and ask their questions. The theme that ran through most of the comments was the question of quality vs. quantity, and making sure that all of our students had an equal chance at excelling.

Hancock distributed a definitions sheet listing definitions for the following terms: Performance Standards, State Standards, Curriculum Standards, Curriculum, Instruction, and Graduation Requirements. The only definition that is changing are the graduation requirements.

“Every principal had to evaluate their school,” Hancock said. “Many argue for across the board target reductions. We want to have all students excel. We are not ‘dummying down’ our standards. There are kids being left behind in Kenosha. We conducted focus group meetings, and got feedback from parents and students. We put a 100-day plan in place. The Transformation Design is not just based on dollars.”

Daniel Tenuta, assistant superintendent of Secondary School Leadership, led the presentation taking the committee members of the Personnel and Policy and Curriculum and Program Committees and the audience members through the changes in the graduation requirements. An analysis of 2010 graduates yielded the following information: 50 percent of the graduates earned 28.5 credits or more; 30 percent of the 50 percent of the graduates earned over 30 credits. We are not reducing any standards. KUSD was the only urban district that made AYP in the State. AYP is a State-wide accountability system mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 which requires each state to ensure that all schools and districts make Adequate Yearly Progress.

Questions from both committee members were fielded by Gilbert Ostman, the Lead Chair of the meeting. Several of the committee members expressed their concern of not having enough information to make a recommendation to the Board, and the short time frame in which a decision needs to be made. Most of the committee members stated that they felt they needed the quantitative dollar information in order to make an informed decision.

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