Mayer reacts to credit increase at high school by M. Jill Karolevitz As Vermillion High School classes resume after Christmas break this year, very little will have changed. A different scenario, however, will greet incoming students beginning with the 2004-2005 school year.
That�s when South Dakota�s high school students will need 22 credits to graduate from high school, due to a Nov. 20 decision by the state Board of Education.
The new rule, which was adopted 5-2, will require graduating students to take one additional credit of math or a lab science, one-half credit of fine arts and one-half credit of electives.
�Overall, we have no objection to the change,� said Vermillion Superintendent Robert Mayer. �We now have a seven-period day, and most of our students take six classes per day and
graduate with more than 20 credits anyway. �I don�t expect this to be a major problem.�
VHS students are already required to take three credits of math, �so that part has no impact on us,� Mayer said.
The curriculum is also available within the electives, with writing and literature classes offered in English and within the social studies program, students can choose from classes such as sociology, Russian history, Native American history and economics.
The biggest challenge will come in the area of fine arts, Mayer said.
�I welcome the change in fine arts,� he said. �So many eggs are put in one basket with math and science, the fine arts are often forgotten � there�s less emphasis placed on them, so it�s good to see some change there.�
VHS students are required to take one-half credit of fine arts, �but with the increase, they will have to take a full credit,� Mayer said. �This is good, but I don�t know how we will accomplish it.�
Presently, students who participate in band or chorus for four years receive two credits. But that may have to change, Mayer said. The school also has a full-time arts teacher, �but we don�t have the facilities to increase the program.�
Drama is a different story.
�We may be able to add classes in the field of performing arts,� Mayer said, �especially with the new facility.�
Increased graduation credits are not aimed solely at students planning to attend college, said Mary Sommervold of Sioux Falls, president of the state Board of Education. She said it is equally important for students who plan to join the work force after high school to get additional exposure to the arts, literature, match and science.
�If they don�t get it in high school, where will they get it?� Sommervold said.
She also noted that raising specific minimum requirements is important so that �all South Dakota public school graduates can compete with the rest of the world.�
But Mayer isn�t concerned about VHS students.
�Our kids don�t have any problems competing,� he said.
Mayer is concerned, however, with the inequality of higher credit standards versus little increase in state aid.
�This is an unfunded mandate, which I don�t like to see,� he said. �We support the increase in credit requirements, but when we�re expected to add credits, if state funds aren�t available, it would be difficult to make cuts in programs at the high school level.�