Board of Ed Advances Major Overhall of Academic Requirements

Board of Ed Advances Major Overhall of Academic Requirements

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A state Board of Education is advancing proposals for a major overhaul toughening academic requirements at all grade levels.

The revised proposal would hold middle school students to a C or better in their classes to earn course credit. Those who did not make the grade could still move on to high school but would be required to take certain classes to catch up.

The state board also could require students to demonstrate certain skills -- such as technical writing or oral communication of ideas -- in order to graduate.

Employers and colleges, then, would be assured that every graduate sufficiently proved his or her abilities in practice, not just on a test.

"We claim they are competent by the diploma, but some aren't," said Patti Harrington, an associate state superintendent who led the committee that drafted the proposed revisions.

The state board's committee on graduation requirements agreed with many of the revisions, which were drafted by a separate committee of educators planning five regional education summits this fall.

The plans for a competency-based system follow demands by business and higher education leaders for greater academic rigor.

Members of both the graduation and summit-planning committees agreed Wednesday that many issues still need to be resolved, including the role of year-end tests.

The original proposal by the graduation committee would have high school students earn course credit through various combinations of grades and scores on year-end tests.

Some disagreed with using the year-end tests as a measure of students' skills.

"It is an absolute misuse of the tool for the goal of demonstrating competency," Salt Lake City District Superintendent McKell Withers said.

Multiple-choice tests are poor measures of students' competency because they capture a sample of what students learned over the school year but not what they can do with that knowledge, said Louise Moulding, the state's director of evaluation and assessment.

"Competency -- can you do it? -- requires performance. No multiple choice test, no matter how long it is, is good enough to measure competency," Moulding told members of both committees.

Moulding said grades can be subjective, possibly including such things as a student's class behavior and effort.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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