Missouri Ups Graduation Requirements
The school day just started, but with toes tapping and horns blaring Katy Anselmo and the Rock Bridge Jazz Band start their day off on a good note.
"They come in early and they play on their own, they come after school to do rehearsals...They really enjoy playing," said Anselmo, Rock Bridge Band Director.
Next year's freshman will have a harder time if they're looking to make the band or participate in other high school electives. Across Missouri, the class of 2010 will register under the new minimum graduation requirements. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will increase the total number of credits needed to graduate from 22 to 24. An additional credit hour will be added to each of the core subjects, including communication arts, social studies, math and science. Two half-credit courses will also be added, heath education and personal finance.
"I think one of the things we have to do in Missouri is make sure the students we graduate five, ten years down the road have the skills needed to be successful in whatever they choose to do after graduation," said Stan Johnson of the Missouri Department of Education.
But this increase takes away from what some teachers say are the most valuable part of a high school education.
"Electives are more than just an opportunity to experiment with other courses such as fine arts or music. For some students, that's the direction they end up going with their future," said Todd Fuller, Missouri State Teachers Association.
The number of elective credits required will drop from ten to seven.
"We have students that take band all four of there years here at Rock Bridge, but also decide their senior year that they want to take an acting class or a piano class, or a musical theater class. And we're afraid that with this new change that that won't be able to happen," Anselmo said.
Along with the new requirements comes new flexibility. At some schools, current course material may already be filling requirements, such as health taught in PE, or personal finance in math. Students who can show they have mastered core courses may be able to test out, making more time for more electives.
"We will provide guidance on what areas credit can be earned in at, and it'll be up to the local school to determine which areas they choose," Johnson said.
For now, Anselmo says Rock Bridge's Music Department has no plans to change in response to the requirements. As the beat goes on, they hope they don't have to.
Missouri education officials received about six hundred comments this summer regarding the new requirements. Fifty of those comments opposed cutting back on electives.