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Gainesville may reduce graduation credit requirement

POSTED: March 15, 2014 12:07 a.m.

Gainesville school leaders continue to consider a policy change that would decrease the amount of credits high school students need to graduate.

“A lot of students have a difficult time completing their course work in four years as it is,” said Delores Diaz, vice chairwoman of the school board. “So the thinking is to reduce the number to 23, which is the state requirement, to enable more students to graduate on time.”

Georgia only requires 23 credits to graduate, but to set a higher bar for students, Gainesville High has always had them earn more, as many as 28 at one time.

The system eventually switched, requiring 24 for the graduating class of 2012.

The first reading of the proposed credit change was at the Dec. 16 board meeting, but the policy has yet to come up for a second reading or vote.

“Truly, I see both sides of it,” Board Chairwoman Maria Calkins said. “I think that approving the 23 hours is the direction that we need to go in because for kids who are excelling, it’s going to give them the opportunity to take more dual enrollment classes, which is really a great opportunity for them to take these college classes.

“And for the borderline kids who need to get to the next step in their lives, we want them to get that high school diploma.”

Diaz was a little more cautious in her thinking, saying she wonders if lowering the credit hours needed would encourage students to rest on their laurels in taking elective courses like music or art.

“As a former educator, I’m all in favor of rigor and keeping really high standards,” Diaz said. “But on the other hand, I don’t want to do anything that would create a difficulty for our standards, and the state only requires a minimum of 23 — so any student who would normally take more than that would go ahead and do it anyway.

“My concern is if we drop to 23, also, that means fewer students would take the elective courses that gives them a well-rounded education,” she added. “I have not firmly made up my mind yet.”

Board member Willie Mitchell expressed reservations at a recent board retreat, noting that graduation coaches had helped students meet the high standards in the past.

“One of the goals was to increase the graduation rates of minority students and that happened,” he said. “And it didn’t happen by lowering the standards; it happened by putting in place those resources and those extra things that were needed to bring them up.”

Both Diaz and Calkins said if the number of credit hours is decreased to 23, it does not take away from core classes students need to graduate.

“There have been some concerns that we are reducing the quality of the diploma,” Calkins said. “I don’t really agree with that because the 23 hours still includes all of the core academic classes that the kids take now. It still includes the math, science, English and language. None of the kids can graduate without those basics.”

Calkins was unsure when it would come up for a second reading and a vote, but expected it to be in April.


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