The State Board of Education is holding off plan to enforce strict new graduation requirements for high school students. The change came when local school superintendents said nearly 30 percent of students may not make it.
The latest figures show 66 percent of the graduating class of 2018 are on track to add up the necessary points on the seven end of course exams. But a proposal to form a new working group to study the graduation requirements led to about seven hours of debate.
“This may have been the strangest bit of debate in my six years on the board, and I've been her for a lot of weirdness,” said board member Todd Jones.
State superintendent of schools Paolo DeMaria wasn’t happy about the conversation either.
“We wish we weren’t having this conversation," DeMaria said. "And we perhaps would not need to have this conversation to the extent the system was producing the results we desire that we would desire. And in fact, you’ve heard many superintendents who’ve appeared before this board simply say that. We believe we can get there – we need more time.”
Jones was not in favor of lowering the minimum test scores needed to graduate saying good local districts step up and see to it that their kids perform better.
"The people we’re hearing from are consistently the ones whose districts are failing to perform under the system and whose kids have been shortchanged the past few years and not the ones who are doing something about it,” Jones said.
New numbers show less than 40 percent of students in the high poverty urban districts or in charter schools are on track. The head of the Senate Education Committee Peggy Lehner says they need to help kids in poverty.
”All these things we talk about but we don’t fund and we don’t do," Lehner said. "We can raise and lower standards all we want and cut scores and numbers but at the end of the day we know 33 percent of our kids are not learning what they need to learn to be successful.”
A representative from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute asked to the board to consider three levels of diplomas. A representative from the construction industry suggested keeping standards high for students on a college prep pathway but he wanted to expanding non-college, vocational offerings.
A task force of two dozen members from around the state will make a recommendation on graduation requirements in April.