Board of Ed Divided on Higher Graduation Requirements
April 24, 2008
Hartford school administrators presented their plan to increase the number of credits required for a high school diploma to the Board of Education Tuesday night, but two board members said they believe raising the bar for graduation at this time would do more harm than good.
Board member Brad Noel said, “I don’t think it’s a fair thing for us to do as a school system...we’ll probably have an even greater drop-out rate because [the increased requirements] are so hard.”
Currently, only about one third of Hartford students who start high school make it through to graduation.
The proposed plan would require 25 credits for graduation rather than the current 21. Additional credits in both math and art would be required. All students would also have to earn two credits in a world language whereas none are currently required. In addition, students would also have to pass a test to earn each credit.
School Superintendent Steven Adamowski has stated that he wants the increased requirements to go into effect with the class entering ninth grade this fall.
While Noel said that “I am very aware of how capable the young people in Hartford are,” she said the increased requirements should not be implemented until the proper support systems are in place and teachers have been trained in implementing the new system.
“I think you’re putting the cart before the horse,” said Noel.
Board member Luis Davila said, “If we’re not putting in the proper support for freshman, this is a recipe for disaster.” Davila said many Hartford students starting high school are already behind due to inadequacies in their elementary school education.
“A high percentage of freshmen are going in at a disadvantage because the schools haven’t been doing their job,” he said. Noel brought up the same issue and said more energy should be concentrated on students in the lower grades before raising the bar at the high school level.
But board member Israel Flores, a recent graduate of the Hartford school system, said he supported increasing the number of credits for graduation. In fact, he said, he wrote his high school thesis on the need for higher expectations for city students. “I just think it didn’t come soon enough,” said Flores.
Mayor Eddie Perez, who also serves as chair of the School Board, said he was behind implementation of the plan as soon as possible. “If not now, when,” asked Perez. He also said that, “These are normal expectations. I wouldn’t consider these high expectations.”
According to Perez, many Hartford students now have trouble in college because their high school education was not demanding enough. “This is about whether the piece of paper we give to a student will mean anything to a college admissions officer or an employer.”
In backing up the plan, Adamowski said that all but one of the magnet schools currently run by the City of Hartford and the Capital Region Education Council (CREC) already have the same or tougher requirements for graduation as those proposed in the new plan.
He also went over each of the four extra credits that would be required and how they are important to a child’s future. The two language requirements are necessary for regular admission into any school in Connecticut’s State University System. Hartford students applying to these schools now must go through a special application process if they didn’t chose to take language courses. Additional math courses are the best indicator of success in college, more so than SAT scores or grade averages, he said. “Our schools have large been bereft of the arts,” he said by way of explaining the extra art credit that would be required. He added that research has shown that adults often recall the arts, such as acting in a school play, as their most memorable high school experience.
The plan to increase graduation requirements was referred to the board’s policy committee for study. That group will issue its report at next month’s meeting of the board as a whole.