USD 489 reviews changes in graduation requirements

By ALICIA FEYERHERM

Tiger Media Network

USD 489 Board of Education met on Monday and reviewed updated graduation requirements, which will go into effect for students starting high school in Fall 2024. 

A state graduation task force started reviewing graduation requirements in 2021.

“As a district, our goal is for successful high school graduates,” Assistant Superintendent Shanna Dinkel said. 

Dinkel noted that Hays High issues a 25-credit diploma, whereas the state only requires 21 credits to graduate. The district does offer a 21-credit option for students who are at-risk or struggling to graduate.

Instead of four units of English Language Arts (ELA), students will have 3.5 credits of ELA and then a half credit of Communications. Communications includes classes like Oral Communication or other classes the district feels fit the category.

Students can still take all four years of ELA, but they would have the option only to take one semester of senior English if they wanted. 

For the History, Government and Social Studies credits, there are currently three credits required and one Fine Arts credit. Under the new standards, those two categories would be combined into a Society and Humanities categories.

“It’s still four credits, so really there’s not a change there,” Dinkel said. 

Currently, students are required to take three units of Science and three units of Math. This would change to a STEM category and would add a STEM elective course for a total of seven STEM units.

Students will still be required to take a half credit of Physical Education and a half credit of Health. 

For the Practical Arts category, USD 489 requires a Computer Technology class for the 25-credit diploma. For electives, the typical 25-credit diploma requires eight electives, whereas the 21-credit diploma requires six. One of those electives will be a Financial Literacy class. Other electives would work to match students’ Individual Plans of Study (IPS). 

Dinkel said counselors and PRIDE Time teachers would work with students to develop their IPS. Board member Jayme Goetz asked if the district has enough counselors to fulfill the needs of the students. Right now, there are only three counselors for the 1000 students at the high school. 

“We’re always looking at our staff and what we can handle and how we can do it better,” Hays High Principal Shawn Henderson said.

Dinkel also pointed out that the IPS process already starts in middle school with an interest inventory to get students thinking about their future careers. 

In addition to these requirement changes, Dinkel said the task force recommended students be required to obtain two post-secondary assets before graduating. These assets can be either Academic or Career & Real World assets. 

Academic Assets include: 

  • ACT composite (Score of 21 or higher)
  • WorkKeys level (Silver or higher)
  • 9+ college hours   
  • State Assessment scores of 3 or 4 for math, ELA, science (demonstrating college readiness)
  • ASVAB per requirements of military branch selected 
  • Senior project/senior exit interviews
  • SAT score (1060 or higher)
  • Completing Board of Regents curriculum
  • International Baccalaureate Exam (4+)
  • Advanced Placement Exam (3+)

Career & Real World Assets include:

  • Youth apprenticeships
  • 40+ community service hours
  • Client-centered projects
  • Workplace learning experience directly related to a student IPS 
  • Industry-recognized certifications
  • Seal of Biliteracy
  • CTE Scholar
  • Eagle Scout or Gold Scout
  • 4-H Kansas Key Award
  • Two or more high school athletics/activities
  • JROTC
  • 90% attendance in high school 

Finally, the task force recommended schools require students to apply for FAFSA. USD 489 will allow students to opt out of applying, but otherwise, all students will fill out the application. 

These changes will require a change in board policies which will be voted on at the next board meeting on March 4. 

Other items discussed at the meeting: 

  • Three teachers presented on a partnership program between high school students and kindergarten students
  • Superintendent Ron Wilson gave an update on the bond construction at Roosevelt and Hays High 
  • The board approved committee appointments for this year
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