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School board considers tougher standards

John Colson

Aspen High School students might face tougher requirements to graduate if the school board decides to make changes to keep up with new standards for Colorado colleges and universities.The Colorado Commission on Higher Education, which governs four-year colleges and universities in the state, recently set new, somewhat more rigorous requirements for students attending Colorado colleges.As a result, school boards around the state are determining if their graduation requirements measure up.”The Aspen School District graduation requirements have not been examined in relation to these new requirements,” Aspen School District Superintendent Diana Sirko wrote to the school board this month. “It is important for the board and school district to begin this discussion and determine if changes need to be made.”The board first took up the subject at a meeting Jan. 9 and will continue the discussion at its next meeting, 7 a.m. Jan. 30. The high school’s graduation requirements now call for students to complete a total of 24 “units” before they can receive a diploma. A “unit” is one year of course credit in a specific subject.A student must have four units of English, three each in math and social studies, two and a half in science, and so on, with up to 10.25 in elective units such as foreign language, art or music.Among the issues under discussion is whether to include foreign languages in the core requirements for graduation. Sirko said such a change may not be necessary, since most students already take a foreign language because they know it will help them get into a good college or university.The school board is also considering requiring an additional unit of math, starting with the 2010 graduating class.Colleges and universities insist math classes must be at the algebra 1 level or higher to count toward admission requirements, said Assistant Superintendent Bev Tarpley.But, Tarpley said, there are concerns new graduation requirements might hinder students who are not bound for college.That, Tarpley said, could boost the dropout rate, something she said has happened at some school districts that make graduation requirements tougher.Roughly 95 percent of Aspen High graduates go on to some form of higher education, officials have said.Tarpley said the schools have been talking with the parents of eighth-graders.And, Sirko said, if the board determines graduation requirements should be modified, it will ask parents to join the conversation before making changes.At a Jan. 30 meeting, Sirko plans to have a report for the board comparing Aspen High to a dozen or so similar schools.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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