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January 9, 2014

Greater Clark lowers graduation requirements

Guidelines now match Indiana’s

JEFFERSONVILLE — Effective immediately for this year’s graduating class, the required number of credits for a Core 40 high school diploma in Greater Clark County Schools was cut from 46 to 40 at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Travis Haire, assistant superintendent, said the move isn’t meant to put diplomas within easier reach for seniors, but to level the playing field with neighboring districts.

“We are requiring more credits than the state requires,” Haire said. “Some of our neighboring districts only require 42. A kid that has 44 credits at Jeffersonville High School would be a dropout, but go to some of the surrounding districts and be a graduate.”

Haire said at Jeffersonville High School alone has about 44 students who could graduate if the new standards were enacted, which would count toward this year’s A-F accountability grade from the state.

He said by keeping the standards for graduation as high as they are, they’re hurting their graduation rates and A-F grade.

“In essence, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Haire said. “We’re asking kids to have 46 credits when the state says 40, and that’s how we’re being measured, that’s how we’re being held accountable. We’ve got a lot of people, a lot of teachers who are working very hard every day helping kids get where they need to get. The kid that’s got 44 credits is a dropout because really, it’s a number that was arbitrarily made by the board many years ago prior to Core 40.”

Nancy Kraft, board member, said she was concerned that the move would sell students, teachers and other school staff short.

Andrew Melin, superintendent, said the move wouldn’t eliminate any of the necessary courses for a Core 40 diploma, but require fewer electives for students. Kraft argued that’s where the rigor in the district’s curriculum comes from, but Melin said the suggestion really started at the building level.

“This was not any idea that I initiated, nor Travis, nor Amy [Schellenberg, executive director for educational services],” Melin said. “This came out of our principals and counselors who were meeting and talking. These are the people in the trenches who are ultimately held responsible and accountable for these kids.”

Haire said if those students knew they couldn’t graduate with the number of credits they have in Greater Clark, they could easily move to West Clark Community Schools, Clarksville Community Schools or the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. and get their diploma.

“It’s a little under 10 percent, but it’s a pretty significant number of kids that for whatever reason, are going to be counted as a dropout because of an arbitrary number,” Haire said. “We are working too hard for those kids, we’ve got too many things in place to keep doing this to ourselves.”

Haire said the move wouldn’t affect the number of credits required for an academic honors diploma, which is set at 47 credits.

Mark Pavey, the newly elected board president, said while he had some concerns on the move, he also thought approving the measure would help students more than it would hurt them.

“I have to go with my heart on this, that this is going to be good for kids,” Pavey said. “I don’t see this as lowering standards, I think it’s putting us right on a level playing field.”

The measure passed 6-1 with Kraft’s opposition.

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