Editorial

Editorial by the Plain Talk This hasn�t been carved in stone. Yet.

But a topic of conversation at Monday�s Vermillion School Board meeting was the South Dakota high school graduation requirements proposal that�s come down from the state department of education.

The new recommendations emphasize areas of instruction that have not been a part of the existing mandates. In addition to the requirements already in place, the new recommended graduation standards call for three years of math and science, one semester of study in economic/personal finance, one semester of health/physical education, and one semester of world history.

The addition of new requirements will result in fewer electives for students.�

The proposed requirements also allow students to choose two credits of study in any combination of world languages, computer studies, or career and technical education to meet the requirements for a high school diploma.

In its current form, the proposal identifies three tiers of graduation requirements.

There is a proposed standard graduation requirement, which meets the requirements established for the basic high school program identified by state law.

There are are also proposed advanced, and proposed distinguished graduation requirements.

The advanced graduation requirement meets the standards established for the recommended high school program identified by state law.

The distinguished requirements include courses students must complete to meet the standards of the South Dakota Opportunities Scholarship.

All three of the proposed tiers have something in common. They will all, when approved, add to the course load a high school student in South Dakota must complete before receiving his or her diploma.

All three tiers, for example, will require the addition of a half unit of world history, a half unit of health or physical education, and a half unit of economics or personal finance.

Under the standard requirements, students must also complete two units with any combination of world language, computer studies or approved career and technical education courses.

The advanced tier requires one unit of world language as a requirement, and one unit with any combination of the combination of language, computer or approved career and technical education courses identified above.

To meet the distinguished graduation requirements, students must complete two units of world language (two years of the same language).

According to Rick Melmer, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education, more courses in math, science, personal finance, health and physical education will better prepare�South Dakota�students for the world they will enter after graduation.

It�s hard to argue with that.

The proposed requirements are a response to House Bill 1001 passed by the legislature last year, which calls for basic graduation requirements as well as a recommended course of study.

The recommended path is one which all students will take, unless their parents and the school agree the basic level is more appropriate for the student. The recommended curriculum requires more courses in math and science.

There�s one significant problem, however, that we don�t believe has been adequately addressed.

How are school districts supposed to pay for this?

Unless you�ve been living in a cave the past five years or so, you�re probably aware that the Vermillion School District�s budget has been shrinking significantly over that period of time.

Each year, the school board has done what it must � the members have collectively bitten the bullet and often taken some painful steps to balance the district budget each year. Those steps have included cutting programs and reducing faculty numbers.

The pain hasn�t gone away, however. The board is forming a committee to help it work on balancing its next budget, which will require cutting $350,000.

The S.D. Board of Education has not yet taken action on the proposed requirements. The department plans to receive public input at meetings around the state until this November.

It�s a paradox. How do you balance the district�s budget and at the same time meet the new high school graduation requirements?

We hope the legislature has enough wisdom to realize that, as in all things, when it comes to education, you get what you pay for.

The proposed graduation standards indicate South Dakota believes its time to challenge our young people to achieve more in the classroom.

It�s a sentiment we share.

But we don�t want this to turn into South Dakota�s version of No Child Left Behind.

Does the state truly believe in these new graduation requirements? There�s one way it can clearly indicate its support.

These new mandates must be adequately funded.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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