By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Local school district officials are taking steps to ensure current high school seniors graduate.
The actions are in response to a state Public Education Department memo issued last week that said the department plans to clarify and amend graduation standards.
The standards that come into question are those that list alternatives to certain required credits, including a physical education credit, and those that count for electives, which might prevent thousands of students from graduating, at least for the current school year.
The department said last week it will let local school districts retain control for the current year but will enforce its 2008 law to ensure uniformity across the state for 2015 graduates.
Officials at Clovis and Portales schools are set to propose graduation requirements for the class of 2014 at their next school board meetings.
At Portales High, Portales schools Superintendent Johnnie Cain said officials will utilize the option of allowing students to create a portfolio as an alternative for other graduation requirements.
Officials will be tasked with defining what will be in the portfolio, which is supposed to demonstrate proficiency. Cain added that if these requirements aren’t set, students would have to use PED guidelines by default.
Portales schools Director of Instruction David Van Wettering favors local control.
Van Wettering feels the community is ripe with resources for students to earn alternative credits, such as community service and internships, which may no longer count when stricter requirements are put in place.
“We know our community well enough to know some things that work for us won’t work for others,” Van Wettering said. “It doesn’t have to be exactly the same to be fair.”
At Clovis High, students have been allowed to use athletics and band participation as PE credits and Clovis schools Superintendent Terry Myers predicts nearly 40 to 50 percent of students would be affected if those alternatives were to no longer count.
A proposal asking the PED to accept alternative credits for this year’s seniors is on the school board’s agenda tonight.
“I feel it’s a very unfair decision for the PED to come in at the middle of the year and tell seniors to have a full year of PE,” Myers said. “To impose such a change on them when they’re this far in their high school career, it’s just not fair to do.”
The proposal will also ask the PED, that if it plans to enforce the 2008 law, it only apply to incoming freshmen because sophomores, junior and seniors have already mapped out their high school courses.
Myers admits enforcing the law was probably the responsibility of the PED as well as the school district, but he said students should not be at fault for the miscommunication.
“Just because the adults didn’t do something doesn’t mean the kids should be punished,” Myers said.
State officials said they have been clarifying rules in the law requiring students to earn 24 1/2 credits, pass all core courses and demonstrate competency in five key subjects before being allowed to graduate.
The 2008 law clearly states that students must work with advisers to plan a four-year course of study, meet all course requirements and pass exams such as the state’s Standards Based Assessment. But it is a complex list of alternative requirements that is causing problems.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.