Bethel considers lowering graduation requirements

Published Jan 17, 2013 at 11:39 am (Updated Jan 17, 2013 at 11:39 am)

A discussion by the Bethel Park School Board about the possibility of lowering the requirements for graduation to the state minimum was met with negative reaction from residents and high school staff.

“I hope Bethel Park would never consider going to 21 [credits],” Pam Dobis, a retired high school teacher, told the board. “That would be outrageous.”

The district currently requires students to complete 27 credits to graduate.

According to the district website, students must complete four credits in the subjects of English, social studies, mathematics and science. They must also complete one credit in physical education and a half credit in health. Two credits in fine/practical arts and seven and a half credits of elective classes round out the requirements.

The state minimum is 21 credits.

District officials said that changing the requirements could, over time, result in cost savings for the district and benefit the needs of individual students.

Janet O’Rourke, director of secondary education, explained that by easing up on the number of core subjects, students who wished would have more time to take advanced classes that they currently can’t fit into their schedules.

It would also give students the opportunity to take college courses and to graduate early, if they wished.

Students who needed to take remedial classes in order to pass the Keystone Exam would also have more time in their schedules, O’Rourke said. In addition, students who are less academically inclined could use the extra time to work and to participate in apprenticeships and mentoring programs, she added.

The changes being considered would be phased in beginning with ninth graders entering the high school and the district would seeing the savings over time, through staff attrition or furlough.

“We have to think outside the box,” said board President Donna Cook.

District Superintendent Nancy Rose said the district is not talking about changing curriculum or cutting high level classes. The students would still have options.

“I would like to see the 27 credits stay in place,” high school Principal Zeb Jansante told the board.

Jansante said that he wants what is in the best interest of the students, but “bills have to be paid,” he conceded.

The principal said each year he is seeing more and more students requesting to graduate early. However, there are many students who enjoy sports and other extracurricular activities and who want to stay for the whole four years.

Ann Dovorchek, a resident also advocated keeping the current requirements.

“I understand money is an issue, but we need to give them as much education as you can while they are in high school because some may never have more opportunity for education again,” she said.

Residents also urged not to rush to implement changes.

“You need to think long and hard about lowering the graduation requirements,” said Brenda Paysure.

If the district decides to implement the new graduation requirements starting with freshman entering high school in September 2013, district officials will have to make changes by the end of February.

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