E. HOLMES DISTRICT -- While only juniors, members of the Hiland High School class of 2018 are well on their way to meeting a new set of requirements for graduation.
In a brief presentation to the district Board of Education Tuesday, Feb. 21, Hiland Principal Matt Johnson outlined the new requirements for earning a high school diploma, beginning with the class of 2018.
Based on the new requirements, students must take and earn a state minimum of 20 credits in specific subjects -- English language arts (4 credits), health (° credit), mathematics (4 credits), physical education (° credit), science (3 credits), social studies (3 credits) and electives (5 credits).
They also must complete one option to demonstrate readiness to enter college or the work force -- earning 18 points on seven end-of-year state tests, earn an industry-recognized credential and earn a 13 on a work-readiness test, or meet the remediation-free scores on the ACT or SAT.
As part of the new standard, he said, the school will meet its obligation of offering the ACT to all juniors on March 21.
In outlining how the new requirements fit into the district, Johnson presented a set of statistics for both the junior and senior classes at Hiland.
There are 79 students in the junior class. Of those, 61 are general education students, one is on a 504 plan (which is not exempt from the graduation requirement), 17 are on an IEP (can be exempt from the requirement) and three take the alternate assessment (exempt from the requirement0.
Of those students, 75 have taken six of the seven end-of-course exams, with the last to be offered in April. One student has taken all seven EOCs and three take the alternative assessment.
On the EOCs they've taken, 53 students, including two IEP students, already have earned 17 or more points, said Johnson, noting that's a "healthy percentage."
A total of 23 students, 12 of whom can be exempted and 11 of whom are at risk, have less than 17 points, said Johnson, explaining this places the total of students at risk at 13.9 percent. These students, he said, are all close to attaining the requirement and are eligible to retake exams, with retakes offered twice annually.
Seven of those at-risk students have earned 16 points, two have 15 points and two have 14 points, said Johnson.
Of the school's juniors, Johnson said, 17 already have taken the ACT at least once, and 10 have already met the remediation-free score for the test. These students all have also accumulated more than 18 points on the required EOCs.
Comparatively, he said, 58 of the 71 students in the current senior class have taken the ACT at least once. And, 30 have met the remediation-free score.
Those senior students have had to, by state and local requirement, complete state tests in reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
In all, Johnson said, "We're pleased with the performance of our students. Comparatively, there are many schools that don't do as well. A lot of schools don't have near as many students meeting the requirements, he said, adding Hiland is relatively unique in that it is working to "identify and support those who haven't so they're ready to graduate next school year."
School intervention to at-risk students is not part of the state requirements.
The new method, Johnson said, "has more rigor" for students not only pursuing a college education, but those who have decided to enter the work force.
And, while the requirements should gauge the readiness of all, those who know they do not want to pursue a higher education are questioning the ACT requirement in particular. The college readiness assessment has typically only been taken by students who were college bound, said Johnson.
Now, if they're going to college, they have to prove they're better prepared. And, if they're going into the work force, they have to prove they're also prepared.
"There's a lot of good; of course, educators have some problems with them," said Johnson. And, while the new requirements have both positives and negatives, Johnson said, "on balance, they are good."
Outstanding are some proposed revisions to the graduation requirements, according to Johnson, noting one proposal is to reduce the graduation point total from 18 to 15 points for the Class of 2018.
"If this were to become reality, there would be 0 percent at-risk students in the class at Hiland," said Johnson.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.