District 15 could change graduation credits

If the St. Francis District 15 School Board approves an amended policy at its May 29 meeting, middle school students could be earning high school credits and high school students will have to take more classes.

Middle school students who complete upper level math classes are not getting credit for them and have to find additional math classes to fulfill the high school credit requirement, said Paul Neubauer, St. Francis High School principal.

The proposed amendment would create a math sequence to replace the seven-credit math graduation requirement, he said.

The proposed math sequence would require students to complete Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and Probability and Statistics in middle school or high school.

The change will also open up more opportunities for students who have completed the math sequence and do not want to move into the school’s college level math courses to take more elective classes, Neubauer said.

If approved, the new sequence requirement would start next year.

Also starting next year would be a proposed graduation credit requirement increase.

Under the proposed amendment, incoming freshman will have to earn 57 credits to graduate.

Currently, students have to earn 54 credits to get their diploma.

While the proposed requirement would eliminate early graduations, it will allow students to take more electives, Neubauer said.

Eliminating early graduation will also ensure the district will not lose money.

“We had 33 early graduates who left a third of the school year early, therefore the state would withhold a third of the (general education aid) payment to the district for those 33 students or approximately $66,500,” Neubauer said.

But increasing the number of credits could also decrease the school’s graduation rate.

The school has several safety net programs, including the Handshake program for incoming freshman who may be at academic risk, Neubauer said.

The school is also looking at awarding activity credits for participation in the music program and other activities, he said.

When asked by Board Chairperson Marsh Van Denburgh what the academic benefits were, Neubauer said the proposed change will provide students with opportunities to take more elective classes.

“We are trying to get kids involved in the school and to take a broad array of classes, he said.

Adding the math sequence and increasing the credit requirements gives students a lot more opportunities to have rigor in another academic area and explore other programs, like the college level courses and the technical classes, said Superintendent Ed Saxton.

By taking the college level courses in high school, the students can take the upper level classes with a support system, unlike going to a college where professors are more presenters than instructors, he said.

Under the current requirements, students do not have time to take a lot of electives because of the mandatory requirements, like science and math, Saxton said.

Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]