Schools Adjust Graduation Requirements Amid Shutdown

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Graduation requirements across the nation are changing as schools work quickly to address the impact of coronavirus closures.

More than 30 states have already enacted changes to their criteria or issued guidance as schools retool their graduation requirements, according to a recent report from Education Week.

In most cases, decisions — such as how to award credit for partially completed classes — will be made at the district level.

But states are also approving some major shifts. Roughly a dozen states have canceled previously required end-of-course exams. Others have waived community service requirements. And Utah, which already allowed students to “test out” of some classes, is seeing an increase in districts using that option.

Concerns about equity weigh heavily on the minds of those crafting new policies, James Lane, Virginia’s state superintendent of public education told Ed Week.

Flexibility is key, he added.

“We just want to make sure…that the schools are creating a plan for each student to ensure that the work they missed is made available to them and we’re continuing growth even through these closures,” Lane explained.

But, as many education leaders are finding, that’s easier said than done. Although many schools are continuing instruction online, not all students have equal access, Morgan Dick, a spokesperson for the Arizona education department, told Ed Week.

“We’ve known in Arizona for quite some time that there has been a digital divide between students and families, and to be totally frank, the crisis has shone an even brighter light on those inequities,” Dick said.

Although many schools are in the process of organizing distance learning options, a recent survey of US teens found that 41 percent of teenagers overall, including 47 percent of public school students, have yet to attend a single online or virtual class.

And many of those students, particularly minority youth, say they are concerned about falling behind academically amid the coronavirus closure.

“Every inequity we had in the face-to-face model is magnified when you do it at a distance,” Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction in Washington, told the Hechinger Report. “Now we’re seeing how unprepared the nation is to do distance learning at scale for a long period of time.”

View a state-by-state look at the nation’s changing graduation requirements and visit NACAC’s Secondary Schools College Admission Services Update to see how counselors across the globe are continuing to serve students amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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