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District eyes grad requirements

Allowing students to earn credit for retakes and making it easier for middle schoolers to earn high school credit are some of the changes Oak Harbor officials are considering making to high school graduation requirements.

Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon said the recommended changes will more closely follow recent changes in state law, help reduce barriers that could keep students from graduating, and reduce some of the school district’s self-imposed “unfunded mandates.”

To help hard-working students who are still falling behind, administrators are writing in provisions that will allow students to retake classes and still receive credit. For that to happen, a student has to earn a D or D-plus in a course, receive teacher approval, and it must be part of a course sequence.

Gibbon said the change will allow students who struggle in a class to retake it and improve their skills. That way they don’t fall behind when they move on to a more difficult class.

“We have kids who are earning D’s and working very hard,” high school Principal Dwight Lundstrom said during last week’s school board meeting.

Gibbon said that having students retake a class without a chance to earn credit would interfere with graduation.

“We saw that as a disincentive and a barrier to graduation,” Gibbon said.

The school district is also looking to increase the math requirement to three credits up from the current two in order to comply with new state law. The majority of the students at Oak Harbor High School have to take at least three credits of math already. That’s because they want to meet college entrance requirements or they have to take extra classes because they haven’t passed the math portion of the WASL.

Students could soon have to enroll in programs of study and areas of concentration. They would have the chance to follow two programs — either college prep or industry/technology. Each program will offer three different concentrations.

Gibbon said the programs will help students in middle school focus their education and better prepare for high school.

“They can make changes that can open doors in high school,” Gibbon said.

Many middle school students are already taking high school-level classes in math, science and Spanish. To help them get high school credit during middle school, a change in regulations will allow students to automatically receive credit. Currently, families had to file a formal request with the high school to get credit for any advanced coursework completed in middle school.

The school district is also changing the way to track the standings of high school students to jibe with the way state and federal government tracks them.

Officials are looking at adjusting the attendance policy where there is more of a connection between learning and attendance.

The changes to graduation requirements stem from committee recommendations. The committee had considered adding another half credit of English to the requirements but decided against that. However, students enrolled in a college prep program will have to take that extra half credit of English.

The committee is also debating whether to propose changes to the senior culminating project and portfolio. The culminating project is pretty demanding in terms of logistics and resources and it goes above and beyond state requirements, Gibbon said.

He estimated it costs the school district approximately $500,000 for the senior projects and portfolios.

The Oak Harbor School Board heard a presentation about the graduation requirements during its Monday evening meeting, March 10.

It is scheduled to consider a first reading of the proposal during its March 24 meeting.

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