Changes in graduation requirements

Blount Education Initiative supports Diploma Project

In 2008, Gov. Bredesen commended the State Board of Education’s decision to officially adopt more rigorous graduation requirements in Tennessee. The Tennessee Diploma Project (TDP) redefines the K-12 experience as an initiative to raise Tennessee’s standards and curriculum to better prepare students to be successful after high school, says the Blount Education Initiative, a grassroots organization charged with advancing educational priorities in Blount County.

In a press release, the BEI said it believes the objectives of the new program will challenge students and better prepare them for college and the workforce. The goals of the diploma project include producing students who are workplace and/or college ready; have a deeper understanding of math and science and their relationship to technology; can work cooperatively in groups and are ready to demonstrate responsibilities in their own lives and in service to their community.

“These new standards will equip students in Blount County with additional knowledge and skills to help them succeed after high school, which ultimately will help improve the quality of life in Blount County,” said BEI Executive Director Bonny Millard. “As a community, we should rise to the challenge that these new standards present in order for our students to gain stronger skill sets.”

Part of implementing the TDP requires schools to align their curriculum to secure a pathway for students, parents and teachers to reach those high standards. The new requirements will begin with this school year’s ninth graders.

Requirements include:

• Current basic high school requirements requirement 20 credits while new requirements for students beginning high school in the Fall of 2009 are 22 credits.

• Currently students must have three math credits (including either geometry or Algebra II) while the new requirements call for four math credits, including Algebra I and II, geometry and a fourth higher level math course.

• Current requirements call for three science credits including one physical science course and biology. New requirements for students starting high school in the Fall of 2009 call for three science credits, including biology, chemistry or physics and a third lab course.

• The English and Social studies requirements for students beginning high school in the Fall of 2009 remain the same as the current requirements - four credits for English and three for Social Studies.

• The current requirement for Wellness is one credit and the new requirement for students beginning high school in the Fall of 2009 is one and a half credits for Wellness and Physical Education.

• Additional requirements for students beginning high school in the Fall of 2009 include a half credit for Personal Finance, two credits for a foreign language and one credit in Fine Arts.

The Fine Arts credit may be waived for students not going to a university, which then expands and enhances the elective focus requirement of three credits. The Elective Focus can include math and science courses, career and technical education, fine arts, humanities, Advanced Placement courses or International Baccalaureate courses.

Other dimensions of the new standards include end-of-course examinations, which will be factored into the student’s grades as a percentage along with performance-based assessments being developed by the Department of Education’s Division of Accountability, Teaching and Learning.

The Tennessee Diploma Project also will require faculty to participate in professional development. All teachers will be informed of changes in the standards and assessments along with best practices for engaging students and increasing retention.

More information about the Tennessee Diploma Project and the new graduation requirements may be found on the Tennessee Department of Education’s Web site at www.state.tn.us/education or www.tnelc.org.

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Comments » 1

bapman1 writes:

This is good news: for too long, Tennessee has papered over its challenges by inflating student proficiency rates. In 2007, the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP), a more rigorous national sampling of students, said that just 29% of Tennessee 4th graders were proficient or advanced in math; in contrast, the TCAP said that 89% were proficient/advanced!

We need more rigorous coursework and assessments; we also need to pay more attention to value-added performance, which shows whether schools are successfully helping students reach their academic potential. There’s more information on value-added assessment and other issues in Tennessee education at www.education-consumers.org.

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