School Officials Allow Students To Opt Out Of Tougher Graduation Requirements

By David Howell
Editor

WATER VALLEY – Starting with the coming school year, Water Valley students will be allowed an option to opt out of new course requirements if they do not plan to immediately attend a four-year college after graduating.

    The change, which was  adopted by the Water Valley School District board members during a June 1 meeting, comes after the State Department of Education increased curriculum requirements for freshman students starting with the 2009/2010 school.

    The new state requirement adds three extra class units from the current 21 unit requirement, which includes an extra math class, an extra social studies class, a half credit of physical education and a half-credit elective. The increased requirements begin with the freshman class that just finished the 9th grade.

    “The State of Mississippi is going to allow parents to opt their children out of that new requirement and remain on the 21 unit requirement and get a standard high school diploma,” Water Valley High School Principal Glenn Kitchens explained to board members, before making a personal recommendation in favor of the opt-out provision.

    “If they can reach that 21 (class units), and kids all over the state are graduating with 21, why are we telling our kids no?” Kitchen asked.

    Students who do opt out of the new requirements will not meet the state’s Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) requirements to immediately enter a four-year college, but it will allow graduating seniors to attend a community college, the principal explained.

    “We had this option last year at our school, our faculty nixed it. We didn’t think it was something we wanted to do,” Kitchens added. “Over the course of the year we thought about how silly,  drop-out prevention is a huge issue.”

    School board members voted to allow the reduced curriculum opt-out option with only one question, at what point can parents make the decision.

    “Schools deal with this in a variety of ways with when the child gets to make up their mind,” Kitchens said. Different schools in the state allow students announce their intention to opt-out, ranging from when they enter their freshman year all the way to the end of their senior year, Kitchens reported, adding a scenario in which a student did not opt out but ended their senior year without meeting the 24 unit requirement but had met the 21 unit requirement.

    “I am not personally real crazy about it,” Board member Taylor Trusty said. “But if we are going to give that option, I don’t see what difference it makes whether they do it in their freshman year or at the end of their senior year,” Trusty said.

    “If we want to go all the way to the end of the senior year, we will be pioneers along with Ackerman,” Kitchens said, as board members voted to allow the opt-out option at the end of the senior year.    

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