Board to evaluate HS graduation requirements

Sparta may ask seniors for 130 credits

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By Fran Hardy
— The Board of Education’s Curriculum Committee recommended to the board at this week's work session that the number of credits required for graduation at Sparta High School be increased from 120 to 130.

Board vice president and curriculum committee chair Kelly McEvoy said the recommendation comes after a request from high school Principal Dr. Daniel Johnson, who said he would like to increase the credit requirements to 125.

After reviewing and discussing the matter, the committee asked Johnson if the requirements could be increased to 130.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Dr. Melissa Varley said that Johnson, along with his administrative staff and teaching supervisors, then studied the logistics and ramifications of increasing the graduation requirements and reported back to the committee.

Johnson said that it would be possible to increase the credit requirements to 130 at the high school without adding additional staff, as long as current staff levels are retained.

The minimum credit requirement for high school graduation in New Jersey is 120. Superintendent Dennis Tobin said most Sparta students graduate with as many as 140 credits. Many comparable high schools require 140 credits for graduation, according to Tobin.

Tobin said with only 120 credits required, some students can actually graduate in three years. However, other students take only the minimum credits and fill their schedule with study halls. He said increasing to 130 credits will keep students in high school for the full four years and require them to take more substantive classes instead of study halls.

McEvoy said the staff and the courses are already in place for the increase, and that students would be required to take more classes and less study halls.

Board Member Kim Yeomans said she feels some student assessment data is lacking and wants more reported to the board, which led to a 45-minute discussion on the matter at the meeting.

Yeomans wants status reports on every student for every subject, at every grade level for each marking period.

Varley said that teachers collect that information for their classes and use it to make educational decisions for the students. She said for them to calculate all that data and put it into a format is not a good use of their time, and that teachers should be focused on instruction.

Varley also said the additional assessments Yeomans wants given to the students takes away from instructional time in the classroom.

“We can’t just test. We have to teach, we have to move forward,” Varley said.

McEvoy said she did not understand Yeoman’s need for the information.

“This kind of detail is just not necessary for a board member to do their job," McEvoy said. "Exactly what information do you want? Why do you want it? And what do you want to do with it?”

Yeomans said she wants more assessment data so that she can make better data-driven decisions. She also said student assessments are necessary for the board to see if they are meeting their goals and helpful when they evaluate the superintendent.

Board Member Brenda Beebe said the information would help the board find out if they need to add more early intervention teachers in the lower grades.

Board president Karen Scott said that it is not the board’s job to make those decisions. Scott said it’s up to the educational staff to make those requests.

McEvoy said she did not intend to communicate that the board does not need data, but that she is concerned about the kind of data Yeomans and Beebe are requesting. McEvoy said the requests go beyond the purview of the board.

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