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Forward thinking boosts our students

Interesting education news on two fronts this week.

First, Mascenic, where the School Board is looking at changing the requirements for a student to graduate, upping the number of credits needed from 20 to 25. The proposal would do away with the two-tier diploma system that’s now in place, where students who earn 20 credits get a “Standard Diploma” while those with 26 or more get a “Diploma of Distinction.” Instead, all students would need to obtain 25 credits. Those who get an additional four credits and maintain a B average would have the distinction “with honors” attached to their diploma. The policy also calls for a variety of alternative ways that students could earn credit toward graduation, such as taking extended learning or online classes or even college-level classes.

Board members are just starting to review the graduation policy, after having their first reading of the proposal on May 19. It will be interesting to see if they get much feedback from the Mascenic community. Some may argue that increasing the requirements will make it more difficult for students to graduate, which could lead to a higher drop-out rate. Others may say that raising the bar will mean students will become better prepared for life after high school, whether that means going into the workplace, pursuing higher education or joining the military.

We don’t think the new requirements are unreasonable and we hope the Mascenic community agrees.

Meanwhile, ConVal High School has been getting lots of attention for its three-year-old TASC program, where 43 minutes are set aside every day where students can meet with a teacher to get extra help if needed, focus on homework, do make-up tests or work on special projects. The way the time is used can vary from student to student, and from week to week, depending on what a student needs. But the time is closely monitored by the student’s TASC advisor, who gets feedback from other teachers who work with the student. ConVal Principal Brian Pickering said TASC has significantly reduced the number of poor grades that students receive while also providing a built-in time for enrichment activities for many students.

We hear a lot of anecdotal comments that students come out of all our area high schools poorly prepared for the workplace. Both the TASC program and the proposal for more stringent diploma requirements are worthwhile steps to address that community concern. The leaders of the ConVal and Mascenic districts are to be applauded for finding ways to help students who are struggling while at the same time offering opportunities for high achieving students.

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