School board changes graduation requirements

In anticipation of state-mandated certificate of advanced mastery (CAM) requirements and to make high school students tailor their education toward life after high school, the District 55 School Board altered graduation requirements on this year’s sophomores during its regular meeting on Jan. 8.

Under the new requirement, sophomores must pick one of six interest areas. High school electives are divided among these interest areas. Sophomores must take four of 12 of their required 12 credits of electives from those interest areas.

Students are required to earn 26 credits to graduate. The total number of credits has not changed.

Whether the CAM requirements are ever implemented by the Oregon Department of Education, proponents of the new graduation requirements say it will still be valuable, focusing students on their future.

A School District committee comprised of teachers, administrators and counselors from across the high school charged with developing CAM requirements proposed the new graduation requirement.

The committee asked what is “really good for kids,” social studies teacher Nancy Ellis told the School Board. Students do not always want to do what staff want, although many students do connect their school work to their future and take courses accordingly.

Most students prefer to take the path of least resistance, Ellis said. Rather than taking classes connected to their interest areas, they take the simplest credits possible. The emphasis is on credits not on career, work, school and transition to a career or college.

Course work is then unfocused, Ellis said, then students have trouble connecting the relevance of their classes to life. As a result, attendance in elective classes significantly declines, especially when they are not required for graduation.

The requirement will make a student who is interested in becoming a dental hygienist, for example, take courses based on that goal, in this case course work related to Linn-Benton Community College requirements. That would avoid situations where the student opts out of the harder related courses for credits like student assistant. In another situation, a student may take five physical education courses to complete elective requirements.

The new requirement focuses the students, focusing the relevance and helping the students make connections between class and their future, Ellis said.

Students are allowed to change their interest area once during high school. Students can petition to have electives taken as sophomores count toward their requirement. They also may petition to have classes outside their interest area, or endorsement area, count toward their requirement.

Students transferring in their senior year would be required to take only two credits in their endorsement area that year.

“I’m looking forward to the petition process because that means a kid’s thinking about how education ties into their life,” Ellis said.

The new requirement also helps students meet PASS requirements, now used by Oregon colleges in admission.

“This is a small part of the CAM,” high school teacher Chuck Thompson said. “This requirement is focused on students … taking something in their interest area. All we’re asking them to do is think about what their interests and skills areas are.”

The new requirement does not apply to modified diplomas, typically for special education students.

In other business, the School Board:

–Accepted a donation of science equipment from John Cvitanich.

–Accepted a $600 Oregon Department of Education training for extended assessment.

–Adopted a new policy regarding the use of feature films in classrooms.