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Gainesville looks at reducing graduation requirements

Number of required credits doesn’t reflect class difficulty

POSTED: December 26, 2013 11:56 p.m.

As Gainesville City Schools considers reducing the needed credits from 24 to the state-required 23, school leaders say the move doesn’t make classes easier but does enable students to more easily graduate in four years.

“I have learned that students that desire to take more courses do, and many of them graduate in four years,” Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “However, some students don’t make that four-year mark because of that additional unit.”

Gainesville High School students were initially required to complete 28 credits to graduate. Gainesville City Schools eventually switched to requiring 24 for the graduating class of 2012. Georgia only requires 23, and when Wood’s Mill Academy was established in 2010, it was also under the 23-credit rule.

Federal requirements make the overall graduation rate look lower than it really is, Dyer said, explaining if students don’t graduate in four years they are counted as dropouts; in reality, more students graduate from the high school than reflected in the state-released graduation rate, but it takes longer than four years.

Under the four-year rate, Gainesville High was at 58 percent for 2011 and 66.5 percent in 2012. The recently released 2013 graduation rate was 70 percent.

Prior to 2011, the rate was 84.5 percent.

“Even though we’re glad we’re climbing, it really still doesn’t tell the story of ... the students that are finishing and graduating,” Dyer said.

Georgia does release a five-year graduation rate to better reflect those students. The 2012 Gainesville High five-year rate was 78 percent out of a class of 331 students.

Another impetus to change the number of credits needed for a diploma is the newly required state career clusters and pathways, which require students to take classes in a career field of interest to them on top of core classes and other electives.

“The pathways are all about creating career interest and being relevant,” Dyer said. “But they’re also about getting students through high school in four years.”

“Throughout serving on the board we’ve talked about rigor,” member David Syfan said. “We want more rigor in our classrooms ... so, it not only sort of concerns me when we reduce the number of credits it takes to get that (diploma) but it seems counterintuitive that you’re not facilitating rigor.”

“We’re (saying) more courses equal more rigor, when in reality it’s the courses the student selects that is the rigor,” Dyer said. “And with the new (Common Core) standards, there’s a higher level of rigor in all courses expected.”

There are also options within those core classes; students can take honors or Advanced Placement classes.

The first reading of the proposed ordinance to make the required number of credits 23 was at the Dec. 16 board meeting. It will be directed to the school governance councils and brought back to the school board during the February meeting.


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