Dr. Walt Cooper
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Recently, with little attention or fanfare, the Colorado State Board of Education adopted the “Colorado Graduation Guidelines,” which define measures that future graduating seniors must use to demonstrate college or career readiness in English and math. One possible reason for not much attention being given to the State Board’s action is that the work really isn’t new. In fact, state graduation guidelines have been in development since legislation passed in 2007. What is new, however, is for the first time ever, there will be state-mandated requirements for high school graduation in Colorado (beginning with the graduating class of 2021). Previously, all requirements for graduation were determined by each locally elected school board in each Colorado school district.
State-level graduation requirements in some form are norm the across the country, but they look very different from state to state. In Colorado, these requirements are intended to be part of a fundamental shift from the long-standing focus on seat time and Carnegie units to the actual demonstration of competency in at least the areas of English and math.
So what will this shift mean for students? Ninth-graders in fall 2017 (students currently enrolled in 7th grade) will be the first class required to demonstrate competency—or show what they know—in English and math in order to graduate from high school. The adopted guidelines provide a menu of approved measures like minimum scores on standardized assessments such as ACT, SAT, ACCUPLACER or AP exams. The menu also includes options like passing concurrent enrollment (college) courses or completing an approved capstone project. A full list of menu options is posted on the Colorado Department of Education web site and can be accessed via a link posted at www.cmsd12.org.
Local school boards will still play an important role by selecting which measures from this menu students will use to demonstrate competency in their individual school district, but no longer will simply passing courses and earning a specific number of credits suffice for graduation. This is the work that now lies ahead for the District 12 Board of Education, with the goal of having the District 12 menu of options established by November 2016.