Reading, writing and arithmetic - AND science— AND more arithmetic, and science. But, let’s not forget social studies.
Stephenville High School administrators and faculty have been grappling with how to get new high school graduation requirements packed into one school day.
Principal Travis Stilwell said he has mixed feelings when it comes to the new state mandate.
“I am excited on one hand, but very frustrated on another,” Stilwell said. “For many students, I think it will be good for them to take the extra math and science courses in order to be prepared for college. However, on the other hand, there are certainly students that do not intend to go to college and they will have a hard time with the extra required coursework.”
Stilwell said he and his staff have been working diligently over the past year exploring master schedule options that will earn students (beginning with this year’s freshmen) 26 state credits.
The new state graduation requirement is referred to as the “4 x 4” program which requires students to take four years of the four core subject areas: English, math, science and social studies.
Previously, students needed four years of English and social studies with the minimum graduation plan calling for three years of math courses and two years of science courses.
A minimum degree plan consists of 24 credits for completion but now students must start out at the “recommended or distinguished” plan, requiring 26 credits, until it’s proven the student is unable to meet the requirements.
If this happens, Stilwell said, through a committee process the student can be moved down to the minimum plan.
Stilwell believes the best way to accomplish the new state mandate is by conducting eight classes per day rather than the present seven class periods. Each class would last 45 minutes.
And, on top of that the school day will have to be lengthened by 20 minutes.
The proposed schedule calls for the school day to begin at 8:20 a.m. with those attending TAKS tutoring beginning at 7:50 a.m. The school day would end at 3:40 p.m.
Of course, with more classes, additional teachers are needed.
“Over the last two years, we have been working to move staff around in preparation for the additional courses,” Stilwell said. “We’re in good shape with our current personnel to meet the needs in mathematics. However, we will need to hire two science teachers in a couple of years.”
Stilwell said another expense that is being looked into is the need for additional science labs.
The good news is the older the student, the shorter the school day as long as no classes have to be retaken due to failure and all state tests have been passed.
Early release options for students are listed below:
Freshmen - eight periods Students passing all sections of the TAKS with eight credits earned — seven periods Students passing all sections of the TAKS with 15 credits earned — six periods Students passing all sections of the TAKS with 21 credits earned - five periods
Stilwell said freshman students would take a transition/study skills class as an elective course.
“The course that will be utilized is MAPS (Mapping for Academic and Personal Success), which is approved for state credit by the Texas Education Agency,” Stilwell said.
Stilwell said the course will be beneficial for all students because of the many aspects it covers including learning styles, discipline, attitude, and time management, among many other skills.
Stilwell said several other schedules were considered such as block, trimester/accelerated block and a seven period day that would include a zero hour. But, to accommodate students taking four years of athletics and four years of another elective such as Ag or band this is the schedule that will feasibly fit student needs.
Stilwell said the teachers at SHS are up for the challenge and he is working hard to keep their lesson preparations to a minimum. Adding a class period means one more lesson preparation for teachers but Stilwell said everyone is prepared to move forward.
“Teachers and administration at SHS will do everything in their power to ensure success of students,” Stilwell said. “However, it is my fear that these additional requirements will have a negative impact on the dropout rate across the state of Texas.”
ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-965-3124 ext. 238.