Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High School May Not Take 4 Years for All Students; Nassau: 3 Years Will Finish It for Some

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

High School May Not Take 4 Years for All Students; Nassau: 3 Years Will Finish It for Some

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Finish high school in three years? Maybe not.

Nassau County school officials are implementing new state-mandated options to graduate from high school in three years instead of four, but they're not happy about it.

"This is not a good thing, in my opinion," Nassau County School Superintendent John Ruis said. "It's rife with a lot of problems."

The Legislature approved the new law in June as part of its plan to reduce class sizes. Schools are required at the beginning of each school year to notify students in the sixth grade and up that they can finish high school in three years, with 18 credits instead of 24.

But educators in the county and across the state are wary of what early graduation could mean. Concerns about extracurriculars like band and sports have been raised, as well as questions about state funding based on student attendance. Some critics have argued that early graduates will be at a disadvantage for admission to competitive colleges.

The Nassau County School Board already has decided that 18-credit graduates will not be eligible for valedictory or salutatory awards.

Meanwhile, guidance counselors are scrambling to learn the ins and outs of the new law, which takes effect this school year.

And some seniors, even juniors, will have to decide within two weeks of school's start which option they want to take.

"It's been a very confusing thing trying to comply with the intent of the legislation and to get this news out in a very short time frame," said Iris Coleman, director of Instructional Services for Nassau County schools. "To really make a decision, you have to know what would be best suited for your child. It's not something you can decide en masse at a mass meeting."

Beginning this school year, high school students will have three options for high school graduation: the standard four-year, 24-credit minimum that was already in place; a three-year, 18-credit college preparatory program; and a three-year, 18-credit career preparatory program.

The two 18-credit options require fewer credits, but concentrate on more academic courses than the current four-year standard diploma. Both of the new options reduce the number of elective courses, but require students to take two credits in a foreign language. The college preparatory program also requires completion of three mathematics courses, all of which must be at the Algebra I level or higher.

All students still must pass the 10th-grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to earn a diploma. If students on either of the three-year options do not meet those requirements, they will revert to the 24-credit schedule.

The Nassau County school district is releasing information as it gets it, Coleman said.

"We're hoping that through education this won't have a big influx at one time, that parents will have an understanding of the pros and cons so that next spring our . …

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