Friday, May 14, 2010

CORE 24 Graduation Requirements

Core 24 is a proposal from the State Board of Education to set a new minimum for high school graduation requirements for every student in the state.

If adopted, CORE 24 would require all students to earn 24 high school credits in these categories:
4.0 Language Arts
3.0 Math (Algebra, Geometry, and either Algebra 2 or an approved substitute)
3.0 Science (2 labs minimum)
3.0 Social Studies
2.0 Arts
1.5 Fitness (may be waived)
0.5 Health
3.0 Career and Technical Education (once called voc ed or occ ed)
4.0 Elective (2.0 world language and 1.0 math recommended for college-readiness)

This differs from the current state-mandated graduation requirements by having an additional year of language arts, an additional year of a laboratory science, an additional semester of social studies, an additional year of art, and two additional years of CTE. That's 5.5 additional credits of required courses. The electives, however, are reduced by 1.5 credits, for a net increase of 4.0 credits.

Getting 24 credits in four years works out to six credits a year. That means taking (and passing) six classes in a six-period day for all eight semesters of high school. Let's remember that Seattle's current graduation requirement is 20 credits and about 30% of the students aren't getting over that bar. How are we going to get them over this higher one?

This means, of course, that any student that fails any class will have to make up the class. And they can't make it up during the regular school day or year. They will have to make it up either online or before school or after school or during the summer. Seattle Public Schools was concerned that a 2.0 GPA requirement would discourage struggling students. What do you think the extended day or year on top of a full load of six classes a day every day will do for them? Inspire them?

The State Board of Education says that supporting struggling students is essential, as is a comprehensive system of career and college guidance - but those aren't part of the basic funding set of CORE 24. They would move forward without it.

The affluent, educated folks behind CORE 24 recognize the heavier burden it puts on students, so they built some flexibility into it by allowing students to get credit through alternative means, such as getting credit for high school courses in middle school, getting credit for courses taken at college, getting credit for classes taken outside of school - all of which sound likely for well-prepared and well-supported children of affluent educated families, but doesn't offer much flexibility for other folks.

What is the problem that we're trying to solve here? The students that are serious about going to college are already taking the classes they need to qualify. How many students graduate from high school thinking that they can then go to a four-year university but without the pre-requisite courses needed to gain entry? How big a problem is that? Which students who want to go to college don't know that they have to take certain classes in high school to qualify? And what's the tragedy if they have to take those classes at a community college before they can transfer to that four-year school? And, even more fundamentally, who says that a degree from a four-year college is the only legitimate path and that everyone has to be on it?

This idea isn't new to me. I grew up in a middle class family that valued education. An under-graduate education was assumed in my family. If I ever questioned going to college I was immediately rebuffed. "What if I want to be a plumber?" I asked. "Then you'll be a college-educated plumber", my mother responded, "and it can only make you a better plumber." The topic simply wasn't open to discussion. Now it seems that the State Board of Education wants to make my mother's argument to every student in the state. I'm just having a hard time seeing Mary Jean Ryan playing the yiddeshe mamma role for under-performing minority students in the Rainier Valley. I don't think they will stand for it.

I see CORE 24 as doing a lot of damage without returning much good. Let's see that we can more reliably get students to earn 19 or 20 credits before we require them to get 24. Let's go ahead and fund the college and career counseling part so students know what high school classes they have to take to get into college and don't fail to take them. Then, when we're making more than a tiny fraction of the kids college-ready (only 17% of Seattle high school graduates met the credit requirement for four-year college in 2006-2007), let's raise the bar.

22 comments:

Toni said...

I agree Charlie.

I think it is imperitive that every SPS high school offers students the option of taking courses that will allow them to meet or exceed entry requirements to a 4 year public or private college.

Beyond making the classes available, I think that the district and state should step aside and allow students and families to choose what course they want to pursue.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree and could not have said it better.

Legislators love this stuff because they can say they are putting more "rigor" into the requirements. But if the money isn't there to support this effort (and the students), then it should not be enacted. It will be a struggle at many schools and the schools' administrators, teachers and counselors will feel frustrated at a mandate with no backup.

This is not saying we should have low expectations. But I think if we had the supports there for every student currently struggling with the requirements we have today, we would be better off.

dan dempsey said...

"if we had the supports there for every student currently struggling"

Then something reasonable would result.

Apparently the SBE is clueless but politically connected.

Core 24 ... a change that is NOT a solution.

blumhagn said...

Go ahead and tell me I'm naive, but I think Core 24 would be a great step forward. It's for one simple reason: if the state requires 6 periods a day to graduate, then the state has to pay for six periods a day instead of five.

Adding 20% to the per-student funding from the state means that the District can afford to do a whole lot of other good things, including supporting students that need help, giving adequate funding to special ed, etc. etc.

I know that this requires that the District spend the money appropriately, which is not a given. But given the choice, I'll take the extra cash.

TechyMom said...

Related article in the New York Times today: Plan B: Skip College.

I've always been a big fan of techical and vocational education. Even if you want a Bachelor's, it's a lot easier to work your way through college with a $20/hr nurse's aid job than an $8/hr McDonald's job. The key is to provide onramps later in life for the academic track. The US allows a lot more going back to school and track changing than most European systems, which is a good thing. Not everyone needs college.

Toni said...

Good point Blumhagn.

I've been thinking about what Charlie said about how his mother made it clear that he was to go to college. We do the same exact thing with our children, and our parents did the same exact thing to us.

Going to college is not the only route that a high school student can take, but it does give kids a clear advantage. Why should only kids from involved families be the ones to receive that push and encouragement to go to college?

Core24 would hold all kids to the same standards. The push would come from the district instead of mom.

But it's not that simple and I'm conflicted. The reality is that we have a high drop out rate as is. For many kids just getting a HS diploma is a huge accomplishment. Adding Core24 would add another hurdle for those kids to jump...maybe a hurdle too high? Would those kids make the effort to go to summer school to make up a failed class? Or would they think "oh well I can't graduate now" and just give up? Would those kids still be able to get after school jobs?

And the biggest question: Would the district actually provide the support necessary to suceed with Core24 to struggling students? Sadly, I seriously doubt it.

So I'm conflicted. I see both sides on this one.

Kack said...
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ringaround said...

Requirements mean nothing until SPS reinstates the ATTENDANCE requirement for graduation. Most public schools in WA state require that students not miss a total of 12 days in one school year in order to graduate. If they miss more they can appeal and the process is cumbersome so the result is that they don't miss more than 12 days. I have been told that Seattle used to do this but got "sued" by a parent. I am not buying that explanation. I suspect that managing the attendance requirement was something SPS wasn't willing to fund (it does require a full time truancy officer and other tasks). Another issue is the amount of days students are being tested instead of taught. To sum up...no attendance requirement plus almost two months loss of class time for testing results in students not passing classes. Require all you want. Until attendance is required for graduation the end result will be pretty much the same.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Why should only kids from involved families be the ones to receive that push and encouragement to go to college?"

I've seen many high school counselors and teacher urging all kids onto college. Parents are not the sole factor.

"Core24 would hold all kids to the same standards. The push would come from the district instead of mom."

Our graduation requirements now are the same standards (except for the exceptions that for whatever reason SPS allows). I think that schools get a lot of pressure to be all things to all people to make up for what isn't happening at home. That isn't fair, realistic or funded.

Seattle Parent said...

I also agree that CORE 24 is not the magic pill, and could do more harm than good. The first community meeting I went to about CORE 24, the presenter's conclusions were that of course schools would all have to go to a 7 period day to cover for failure/retake rates. Without any more funds (remember the state still only funds a 5 period day), the school day would stay the same length and the class times get even shorter- what a counter-productive solution!

Secondly, Seattle school district is horribly below the state-wide district average requirement of 22 credits to graduate (62% od all districts require this). Only 2 districts require the lowest (20 credit) requirement. If anything, it's a Seattle problem to start on first. If Seattle's graduation rate is so low, how can adding 4 more credit requirements possible help the struggling students?

Fianlly, the State Board of Education hired the BERC group to do a report (late 2008, when the CORE 24 was just gaining momentum) to compare all of the district's credit requirements to the graduation "college ready" results. Here were their conclusions:

Conclusions/Implications

Approximately 49% of students are college eligible based on course taking patterns.

There are no significant differences in course taking patterns based on district graduation requirements.

There is large variation among district in the types of courses students take.

Districts with higher graduation requirements do not require students to meet a set standard. Many of the additional courses are elective or lower level courses (e.g. Algebra 1 spread over two years)

Merely requiring a certain number of credits is not likely to impact college eligibility rates; stating minimum level of attainment is key.

Seattle Parent said...

This is a cross post from Charlie's Go To this Meeting section, relating to the graduation requirements discussion (coming up at the C&I meeting this Monday)-

(Meeting notes from the CORE 24 presentation by Mary Jean Ryan (BOE chair) June 2008, for the Seattle Board):

Every other word Ryan used seemed to be "flexibility" or "flexible provisions" or "fair amount of felxibility." The examples she gave for gaining these flexible credits were: In middle school, art classes, world language, advanced math, plus sports all could earn HS credits. "Native language speakers" would automatically be given two credits, and "2-for-1" credit classes would be given in high school for many CTE classes (ie 1 for a lab science credit, plus 1 for the CTE credit). She said they just needed more time to "unpack the details" in order to find more credit opportunities.
******************
(So, by the time a kid graduates from middle school they will be almost ready for Running Start! Why bother with high schools any more with the CORE 24?)

Charlie, you'll love this-
The only doubtful Seattle Board member voicing any concerns was Mary Bass, with a tongue in cheek question, "Don't you think native English speakers should be given 2 credits for English also?"

Michael Rice said...

Hello

I have to say that I support the idea of increasing the number of credits and subjects neede to graduate. I think a more educated a person is, the better it is for society as a whole.

However, this bumps up against the reality that the high school teachers in the SPS face. The only way that CORE 24 has any chance of working is by making sure ALL students are ready for high school when they walk through the door on the first day of the 9th grade. The interventions need to start in kindegarten and they need to continue thru high school and we as the adults have to say to our children, "We love you and we care about you, so we are not going to allow you to go to the next level yet, because you arre not ready for it. We want to ensure that you will be successful. We are going to do everything possible to make it happen." As the adults we have the responsibiliy to make sure that EVERY child is ready for success at the next level and not just pass the child to the next grade just because the calendar says it is June.

Now, I know that this is hard and that it is expensive and that there will be push back from parents and students, but believe me, wouldn't it be better to have a 17 year old freshman, who though they may have struggled, is now ready for high school than a 14 year old freshman who has never been successful and has just been pushed through the system. That 14 year old has very little chance of success and will be a prime candidate to be a classroom management issue on their way to becoming a high school drop out. How do I know this? Because I see it on a daily basis. It makes me sad, but it also makes me angry, that we so easily toss so many of our children on the scrap heap.

The adults need to decide what is best for the child and make sure that the child is going to be set up for success at the next level before we let that child go to that level.

dan dempsey said...

YES to the above from Rice.

YES .. YES .. YES

Toni said...

100% agree Michael! Well said.

Toni said...
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Toni said...
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Toni said...

"I've seen many high school counselors and teacher urging all kids onto college. Parents are not the sole factor."

Really? Our HS lost its college and career councelor last year as most other HSs in Seattle did. The regular councelors have had to pick up the slack and they are very very busy. Overwhelmed would be more like it. They don't know each kid personally, and don't meet with them unless there is a problem or issue, or as requested by student or parent. Even then, it can take weeks for a meeting with a councelor. Heck it takes weeks for a councelor to even return a phone call to a parent.

Even when (and if) kids get a chance to meet with their councelor at our school, it is brief, for some quick advice, or a schedule change. I have not seen much in depth college counceling, no help figuring out what college might be a good match, no helping kids figure out the application process....

Our councelors work very hard and are good at what they do, but I would hate to see a kid have to rely them when it comes to college readiness and next steps.

Still, I'm not saying that Core24 is a good idea, I'm just saying kids without family support are at a clear disadvantage and a councelor can not reliably fill that void. And yes, I agree that a school can't be all things to all people. That's why I think there is some merit in Core24. It will at least assure that all kids who graduate will be prepared for college.

However if Core24 greatly reduces the number of students that graduate, as I fear it will, that would not be a worthwhile trade off.

I guess it comes downt to this question: Is it better to have more HS graduates even though many will not be prepared to go to college, or fewer HS graduates but all of them prepared for college?

Of course if the district built in the necessary supports (which I have zero faith they would do) or stop social promotion (which again I have zero faith they would do) then maybe we could have both - high graduation rate and college readiness......

Charlie Mas said...

Ending social promotion is one of those things, like reducing central administration, that everyone says they want to do but nobody does.

ttln said...

WSHS has looked at the 8 to 9 transition, specifically at those who are failing in the 8th and promoted to 9th despite their lack of academic success. Those who fail in 8th pretty much fail in 9th. Of those who do not earn their first 5 credits in their freshman year, 90% of those students drop out. So, social promotion eventually leads to drop out.

The argument against retention is that the incarceration statistics for retained individuals is high. Can anyone find the dropout incarceration rates? I guess, dropouts might also include retained individuals. But so what? How many dropouts end up in jail? How many retained drop out and end up in jail? Crunch those numbers! I just want my students to have the skills to succeed! I don’t want them to drop out because they are in way over their heads and have his their deficiencies to squeak through the system.

We should not be letting kids who cannot read or do math at the level required to earn those first five credits move on until they are ready. That is one of the stipulations in the original NCLB legislation I buy into. Eighth grade should be a gate keeping grade

FightingForKids said...

Thank you Michael. It really is about getting kids ready. And no matter whether they go to trade school or a 4 year college, they certainly need more than what the minimum is now. Why not err on being totally ready.

I feel for the high school teachers because often you get kids who have been underserved (for whatever reason) for 9 years before they get to you.

FightingForKids said...

Michael, I think you have the right idea. Today regardless of whether kids are going to tech school, community college, or 4 year school, then need a lot more than what is the minimum graduation requirement. Talk to any teacher in a tech/trade school and they'll tell you how many kids struggle in their classes.

I really feel for high school teachers. You have to deal with the issues kids come with due to them being underserved for 9 years for a variety of reasons.

Alice Atha said...

I oppose the 1.5 Fitness Education as a Student Choice. This should not be a student choice-it should be put in the mandatory section under Core Courses.

Why should the state, administrators, and parents care about physical education classes? The overarching conclusion from the research provides a few key answers:
2) Physically fit children perform better on academic tests;
3) Physical activity can improve classroom behavior and attendance
4) Physically active students are healthier overall: they have fewer risky behaviors, improved mental well-being, and a decreased risk for chronic diseases.

As a nation, we consume foods that provide hefty numbers of calories with little nutritional value, and we are largely sedentary—both of which have contributed greatly to the nation’s obesity epidemic. In the past 23 years, obesity rates among adults have increased by 15%, among teens by nearly that much, and even among children younger than 5 by nearly 10% (Center for Disease Control). Many factors have contributed to this expansion, but certainly declining support for mandatory physical education classes has played an important role.

It is well established that mandatory physical education is not only essential for a child’s health, but it is also critical for the child’s ability to learn. Compared to less active children, physically active children perform better academically, have better classroom behavior and attendance, have better psychological well-being, make fewer risky choices, and are at decreased risk for a host of chronic conditions, including diabetes and obesity.