Durango School District 9-R will delay an overhaul of graduation standards until the Class of 2021 – when students just finishing the seventh grade will enter high school.
But that doesn’t mean things are static.
“I encourage you not to leave the standards exactly what exists today because that looks like that’s OK, and we know it’s not,” 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger told the board.
Snowberger will make recommendations about changes for interim graduating classes at the board’s work session June 14, focusing on not disrupting the schedules of incoming freshmen. More than 200 of them have registered for the fall, academic advising counselor Deb Medenwaldt said.
“I was really set on 2020, because it’s such a cool number,” board Vice President Nancy Stubbs said. “But I don’t think we’re ready. We have to be careful how we say this, and we need to look deeper.”
A big question is whether to require a fourth year of math for all students, whether they’re headed to college or career. Many four-year colleges require a fourth year, and there is concern about closing options for graduates who take three.
“About 65 percent of our graduates go to college,” board member Kim Martin said. “That means 35 percent do not. That’s a voice that keeps getting ignored, and it’s not a negligible number.”
The board asked Snowberger to engage Durango High School’s language arts and math teachers in creating variations of fourth-year core classes for those not headed to college.
“The fourth year doesn’t have to be Shakespeare and trigonometry,” board President Andy Burns said. “Students who want to own their own plumbing businesses might want a class on writing professional proposals, and maybe some applied math in classes like woodworking would be of interest.”
Medenewaldt said DHS math and English teachers are eager to create new fourth-year offerings in their disciplines, “but they need more time.”
The board also wants to take a deeper look at electives and foreign language requirements.
The student representative to the board, Kenna Willis, who was reappointed for another year at Tuesday’s meeting, was concerned about a rush for this year’s eighth-grade class, which includes her brother.
“You definitely want students to compete in and contribute to the global community,” she said. “I believe language is really important for that, because most language classes definitely teach culture. I just studied the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette in my French class, but you could get more creative in English and social studies classes in teaching global culture, too.”
Change has been a constant at Durango High School over the last six years, and parents and staff need time to adjust, board members said.
“We’re just moving to academic advising,” board member Matt Sheldon said. “That is a key component of helping students meet the new standards, and we need to make sure it’s in place.”