Polk County Schools to consider new graduation standards

Published 5:24 pm Thursday, September 24, 2009

The committee, which may hold more meetings if necessary, is charged with making recommendations on high school standards to the Polk County Board of Education.

As Polk County Schools Supt. Bill Miller says, the committee may recommend no changes to the current standards, or it may suggest significant changes to keep pace with recent trends in high school education.

Those changes include a new look senior year in which students may spend more time taking college credit classes and working at internships with businesses than completing required high school courses.

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The senior year of high school is looking more and more like the first year of college, says Miller.&bsp; At the same time, he adds, the last year of middle school is looking more like the first year of high school as more courses previously required for freshmen are now &dquo;pushed down&dquo; to the middle school, and high school students face new course requirements (see story page 4).

In recent years, more students at the high school, and especially at the Polk County Virtual Early College, have taken advantage of opportunities to take college credit courses at no cost. While some of those opportunities may be limited this year by budget restrictions (see story page 4), Supt. Miller says many high school students likely will continue to look for ways to jumpstart their post-secondary education while still in high school.

The Virtual Early College was established, in part, specifically for that purpose, giving students&bsp; more flexibility to work ahead at their pace, finish high school requirements early and obtain up to two years of college credit from UNC-Greensboro at no cost.

On a recent visit to the early college, administrators heard an example of how some students are taking a different view of high school. One student outlined her plan to obtain sufficient credits at the early college to qualify for Isothermal Community College (ICC), and then switch to ICC before graduating from high school. The plan would allow her to proceed with her college education sooner and get it for less cost.

Miller says such plans raise new issues for the school system and he&squo;s not sure of the right answer.

In its first meeting, the High School Standards Committee will review the current standards for graduation in Polk County. In the second meeting, the committee will discuss possible new standards, and in the third meeting it will make recommendations to the school board.

The committee includes Supt. Miller, Geoff Tennant, Dr. Mary Margaret Ingle, Dave Scherping, Aaron Greene, Mary Feagan, Tawana Weicker, Mary Greene, Walker Williams, Dottie Kinlaw, Tamara Black, Jim Van Hecke, Janet Sciacca, Warren Carson, Steve Wray and Dr. Roger Metcalf.

Metcalf, the former director of the Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA) and a former teacher, administrator and member of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, will facilitate the committee&squo;s meetings.