Skyrocketing Dropout Rates Predicted by Some Education Officials

Skyrocketing Dropout Rates Predicted by Some Education Officials

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Sandra Yi ReportingSweeping changes to education are closer to becoming reality, but at least one school district says those changes could deal a big blow to student performance.

Those changes are part of the state's education plan, called 'Performance Plus', to move toward a competency measured education. The Granite District says, it's a good idea but if not carefully implemented, could affect more than 70 percent of its kids.

'Performance Plus' would require high school students to receive a final grade of a C or better and earn a sufficient score on the end of level tests to get class credit.

State Superintendent Steve Laing has said some districts estimate as many as half of their students currently do not meet those two-tiered standards. The numbers are far worse, for the Granite School District.

Last year, nearly seven percent of secondary students in the district received an F, a failing grade. Under the new proposed standards that number could jump to 71 percent. That means more than 23 thousand students who received a C minus or worse would lose class credit and have to take the course again and get extra help, including tutoring.

Star Orullian, Exec. Dir., Granite Education Association: "A C minus is an average grade. That's considered an average grade. But under the new standards, that would be inadequate."

Orullian says it may get worse. She believes class sizes, which are already large, will grow even more as students repeat classes. Elective courses, she says, then may slowly be destroyed.

Star Orullian: "When the numbers go down in those elective classes because those kids have to repeat a core class, we will lose our electives. And I'll go on the record as saying our dropout rate is going to sky-rise."

Randy Ripplinger, Granite School District: "Obviously, if a students sees that he's got a D and a C minus and he's not accustomed to saying, 'I'm going to lose credit for this class', the probability is we're going to have great number of students get discouraged, and dropout rates may increase."

The district hopes the state will phase in the new reforms, starting in elementary schools, rather than implement them all at once. Meanwhile, the school board recently approved a resolution for its elementary students, independent of 'Performance Plus'.

Randy Ripplinger: "So we would like the core curricula, the fundamentals of education--reading, writing and math--to permeate everything we do. And that's what the resolution is all about."

The state will have to try and figure out how to fund the program. At least two state board of education members said that if the funding is there, they plan to implement 'Performance Plus' all at once. They say if it's slowly phased in, too many kids would be left out. The state is expected to vote on a final proposal later this month.

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