CONCORD -- The Mt. Diablo school board on Wednesday voted unanimously to phase in increased graduation requirements over the next two years, reversing a decision more than three years ago that had reduced them.

In March 2010, the board voted to cut graduation requirements from 230 units to 200 for traditional high school students, reducing the math requirement from three years to two years, so it could save money by eliminating summer school. Trustees on Wednesday agreed to phase in more rigorous requirements over the next two years, gradually increasing them by 10 units next year and 10 units the following year, to a total of 220 for traditional high school students and 190 for alternative high school students by 2016.

Current seniors will not be affected by the new requirements. But current juniors will need 210 units including an additional math or elective course to graduate. Current sophomores and freshmen will be required to take 220 units to graduate, including one additional math course and one elective.

Trustees are not bringing back summer school along with the tougher requirements.

Board President Cheryl Hansen, who was not on the board when the requirements were cut, said it is important to send a message to students that the district expects them to be successful. She said reducing graduation requirements and eliminating summer school sent a message that the district assumed students would fail.


Advertisement

Trustee Linda Mayo, who voted against reducing the requirements in 2010, said she supported the increase, but wonders whether it will cost the district more. Interim Superintendent John Bernard said that, instead of reinstating summer school, he hopes to work with schools to accommodate students' needs.

Bill Morones, Mt. Diablo's director of secondary education, said he believed students would rise to the challenge. He said his district is the only one in the county that doesn't offer summer school, but it does offer Cyber High, an online credit recovery system. In addition, he said the district is forming a math task force.

Rose Lock, Mt. Diablo's assistant superintendent for student achievement and school support, said requiring a third year of math will help the district meet new Common Core curriculum standards being implemented throughout the state, which are expected to be rigorous. She said some students are not taking three years of math now.

In 2010, before the reduced graduation requirements took effect, the district's dropout rate was 18.8 percent. The following year, when the reduction was implemented, the dropout rate dipped to 11.7 percent. But it jumped back up to 14.2 percent in 2012.

Pamela Comfort, associate superintendent of educational services for the Contra Costa County Office of Education, said she was not familiar with the details of the Mt. Diablo board's decision. However, she said that, in general, she supports the idea of rigorous graduation requirements aligned to the Common Core standards.

"Hopefully, if they're increasing graduation requirements, they're also looking at their programs in order to help students meet those requirements, which I would assume they would be doing," she said. "Summer school would not be the only way you could do that, although there's been research showing that well-designed summer school programs help students to achieve."

Comfort said it's important to stress students being successful the first time they take a class, but that districts should also offer alternatives for making up credits, if students fail.

MORE INFORMATION
Additional details about the meeting are available by calling 925-682-8000, ext. 4000 or by visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on Sept. 11.