P20 High School Graduation Requirements Committee
Created in 2005 under the auspices of the P-20 Council, the Graduation Requirements Committee has been working to update Delaware’s high school graduation requirements to ensure that all students can better meet the demands of college and work. The Committee is a diverse collection of education policymakers that includes representatives from the Department of Education, the State Board, district superintendents, high school principals, community and business groups, and higher education.
A 2004 national report by Achieve, Inc., indicated that students across the country are not being adequately prepared to meet the expectations of a college or work environment. The report states that the core skills required to succeed in college and work are aligning, and that all students would benefit from a more rigorous curriculum. Based on Achieve’s findings, Delaware employed the non-profit to conduct an analysis of the state’s graduation requirements, and form recommendations for improvement. The resulting report, titled “Taking Stock: An Analysis of Delaware’s High School Standards and Course Requirements,” called for Delaware to increase the rigor of its high school English Language Arts and Mathematics standards, as well as increase the specificity of its curricula. Both of the above publications prompted the formation of the Graduation Requirements Committee, which began its work in September 2005.
Over the course of the next six months, the Committee formed a series of recommendations for each core subject area. In English Language Arts, it was determined that four credits, emphasizing communication skills, both written and oral,should be taken. In addition, there was a consensus that literature, reasoning, logic,problem solving, and interpretation skills are essential, and should be taught at progressively higher levels as the students move through high school.
In the area of Mathematics, most committee members agreed that students should take four years, encompassing skills equivalent to at least Algebra II. Also, most members concurred that a mathematics class during senior year is important, especially if the student is progressing to college. Therefore, the committee is recommending that a student take at least one math credit in their last year.
The recommendations for Science and Social Science follow closely with the standards advocated by Achieve and other benchmark states. All students will be required to take three credits of Science: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (or their equivalents), all of which must have a lab component. In Social Science, students will also be required to complete three credits, combining the core areas of history,geography, civics, and economics.
In addition to the core course areas, the committee is recommending that the Computer Literacy credit be transferred to the middle school level. Since almost all students have a basic proficiency with computers by high school, the committee sees this credit as being more valuable at a lower grade level.
Currently, the Committee is discussing plans for an optional curriculum for students unable to complete the more rigorous standards. At February’s meeting, Cheryl Orr, Staff Liaison for Indiana’s Education Roundtable and Senior Communications Associate for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, discussed Indiana’s Core 40optional process and provided valuable insight that the Committee is taking into consideration. The optional process includes, not just an alternative curriculum, but a standard procedure students must complete to qualify.
With an almost complete set of recommendations, the Committee is now seeking feedback. The recommendations are being presented to a number of business and community organizations in the state through a series of focus groups. The diverse groups represented include students, parents, business representatives, school administrators, teachers, and guidance counselors. Information gathered at these meetings will be compiled and used to assist the committee in examining the final proposal.
When the recommendations are complete, they will be presented to the State Board of Education. They are expected to vote on the proposed changes in July. Once approved, the new graduation requirements will take affect for the graduating class of 2011 (students entering high school in 2007).