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School board fine tuning graduation requirements

POULSBO — During her January visit to Poulsbo, Washington’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson said the Washington Assessment of Student Learning will help determine if diplomas given to graduating seniors are “real” and whether each student possesses a set of skills that meets the test’s standards.

In much the same way, the North Kitsap School Board has been examining the district’s own graduation requirements to ensure that the North End’s future graduating classes will have certain skills when they don their mortar boards and tassels.

But not every board member agreed at a special study session Thursday on just what requirements they should have. The board made certain, however, that North Kitsap High School students would get more than just their Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) — the document they receive for passing the WASL — and that students at the high school must have a multitude of skills in today’s world.

“I want to make sure our kids can read and write and communicate when they get out of high school,” said school board president Catherine Ahl.

Among the requirements the board discussed:

• The Washington state history class, currently taught at the seventh grade — Ahl, a staunch civics proponent, felt the class would be better suited for high school students so they would retain more information to be used in voting when they are eligible at age 18.

• Lab science — Board members Dan Delaney and Ed Strickland appeared to disagree on the subject of the mandated lab science. Strickland has repeatedly advocated defining “lab” as literally a “hands-on” driven class. Delaney cited Albert Einstein as a scientist but said his famous theories didn’t necessarily come out of a lab and said he felt that the requirement didn’t need to be specified as such.

• Defining English credit — The board discussed whether or not certain electives such as drama or yearbook should be counted toward the district’s mandated four years of English. There was some dissent from Delaney, but most of the board was adamant that English should be required for four years under no other name.

• The world language requirement — NKSD Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Marylou Murphy said the one-credit standard, included under the two credits of arts required, should be phased out. The requirement would be replaced by an elementary-age foreign language program.

“We want to get more good world language teaching at elementary level,” she said.

That could start with an immersion pilot program with a limited number of students, she added. But Ahl wanted to see the program be “equitable” and include every NKSD student.

• Electives — NKHS requires nine electives in its requirements but the state requires 5.5. Strickland and Delaney again argued over how many electives NKHS students need. Delaney felt that more specific requirements would be more useful whereas Strickland said he believes that flexibility and choice for students is more important.

Murphy and Director of Curriculum and Assessment Wally Lis will be updating the graduation requirements to fit the board’s new specifications. After further review, the school board will vote on changing the requirements permanently at its March 24 meeting.

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