WEST — Proposed changes to high school graduation requirements, currently under consideration by the state Department of Education, could backfire on the student experience and result in additional expenses for towns and villages, according to local officials.

The state Department of Education will be accepting public comments on proposed changes to academic standards for secondary (middle and high school) education through May 3. The comment period opened on March 7 and includes at least one public hearing in every county in the state. .

Department officials will also listen to comments at a meeting hosted by the South County League of Women Voters on April 28 in the Westerly Library Auditorium from 4-6 p.m. The meeting is not a formal public hearing.

The proposed changes are the product of a “design challenge” that RIDE launched in 2019 in collaboration with the XQ Institute, an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit that develops programs to improve secondary education. in the USA. As part of its work, XQ Institute has worked with 30 high schools across the state that have received planning grants. The institute also conducts educational opportunity audits at all 64 public high schools in the state.

Westerly Secondary School principal Michael Hobin discussed the proposed changes with the school committee at their meeting on Wednesday. While revisions and additions to the curriculum and programming made to the high school in recent years anticipated some of the changes RIDE proposed, Hobin said he was concerned about student reaction if some of the others were adopted such as they are currently offered.

“I worry that some of these expectations will drive up dropout rates and discourage students from being enthusiastic about learning,” Hobin said.

Education audits of 2018-19 high school class members statewide found that eight out of 10 seniors wanted to attend college, but only six out of 10, according to a slide deck prepared by the XQ Institute. enrolled in classes that would have made them eligible for college, and only five in 10 passed those classes. The institute also found that only 19% of seniors achieved acceptable levels on three parameters that predict success in college.

The institute also reported that while almost all of the students audited took vocational and technical courses, less than a third took a three-course career path.

The proposed regulatory changes would shift the allocation of course credits towards the demonstration of skills rather than counting minutes of instruction. The new regulations would also require applicants to meet college and career readiness requirements and pass a performance-based credential assessment.

“Nobody questions the increase in rigor. The question I have is, where does that fit into a very busy high school experience?” said Hobin.

Some of the proposed changes, like requiring all students to earn at least two credits in the same global language, could be difficult to achieve, Hobin said, because districts are already struggling to find foreign language teachers.

He also questioned the feasibility of a proposed new standard that would require, beginning with the Class of 2027, students to earn a degree “plus a credential” that is recognized and valued by post-secondary institutions and employers. the state. Students are currently encouraged to obtain “plus certificates” by acquiring, for example, global language proficiency and professional and technical certifications.

“For me, it’s not sustainable. … Right now there are students we’re really helping get a degree and now there’s something else they’re going to need,” Hobin said.

Students at Westerly High School are encouraged, Hobin said, to pursue areas of study that interest them. Some of the new regulations could “start to pull them away from their passions,” Hobin said.

Westerly High School courses in computer science, financial literacy and citizenship; and the school’s expanded vocational and technical training offerings will all give the school a head start in meeting expectations arising from some of the proposed new regulations, Hobin said.

School board chair Diane Chiaradio Bowdy expressed concern that the new regulations would result in new costs or “unfunded mandates” for school districts. School committee member Christine Cooke said she hopes the new regulations will “raise the bar” for education, but also asked if the committee should take Hobin’s concerns to state officials.

The dates and locations for the next public hearings on the proposed rule changes are: April 12, 4-6 p.m. at the Providence Public Library; April 14, 4-6 p.m. at Adams Public Library, Central Falls; and April 26, 4-6 p.m., Newport Public Library.

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