District Considers New Graduation Requirements

Mariel Rossi deVries, Staff Writer

The Graduation Requirement Evaluation Committee (GREC) has set forth a proposal for modifying the graduation requirements for Acalanes Union High School District students for the first time since 2001. Several new guidelines were introduced during meetings with the Campolindo governing board.

The 1st revision would give sophomores the opportunity to take alternate courses that meet the freshman and sophomore year PE requirements, such as Yoga or Pilates. Students would also be able to take an independent study course instead of the standard grade 10 physical education requirement.

Students who participate in 2 or 3 seasonal sports during the school year would be allowed to opt out of any sophomore year PE requirement, with the purpose of reducing stress and freeing up schedule space.

A new health class would also be implemented within the curriculum, changing the current PE requirement to a single semester. The teachers and procedures for this class are still being decided by the Governing Board. “It really is open to any person with credentials. It will not be under the physical education distinction. We are opening the position up to health teachers, psychology teachers, and really any science or PE teacher who is willing to lead the class,” stated Aida Glimme, associate superintendent of education services for the district.

The creation of a more holistic health class, which includes the many variables that impact teenagers’ habits and behaviors, would be installed as a semester long course called Social Psychology for sophomores. Social Psychology focuses on human behavior along with what influences young minds. This course is intended to strengthen students’ ability to make sustainable and healthy choices during high school and later in life.

This new course would replace the current Health curriculum, making it an entirely separate class from physical education. PE would remain focused on athletic maintenance, while the new course would address the social and mental components of health.

“We’re [the PE teachers are] really excited about the changes because we can maybe offer more yoga, crossfit, weight training and badminton. We’re not really sure, though, where they are going with the other class because the bottom line is that when you drop something into scheduling, there is something that will probably be moved,” said PE coach Chris Walsh.

Within the math department, the GREC has plans to add 10 more credits to existing requirements. This would mean an extra year of math for many students, which stirred up sentiment both for and against the proposal. The change is meant to encourage struggling students while preparing them for college level mathematics.

“A couple of issues have circulated about the changes to math. If we make it a 3 year requirement, it allows us to make computer science a regular math class. They are not able to currently do that,” said Glimme.

The last proposed change is to the number of required years for Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA). Currently, students are required to take 1 course in 2 of the 5 following areas: Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Career Technical Education (CTE), World Language, or American Sign Language (ASL). The Governing Board and GREC feel that every student should have the opportunity to take 1 year of visual or performing arts before they attend college, so the GREC is considering requiring 1 year of a VAPA class in addition to to 2 years of World Language, ASL or CTE. The 2 years would not have to be in the same category. Since some students decide to forgo art requirements for a language elective, this shift would require them to take at least 1 year of VAPA in high school.

According to Glimme, the GREC feels that the Acalanes school district needs to prepare students for college, which means seeking the skills that maximize academic success for individuals within the education system. They also intend the revised curriculum to aid students in careers and other life paths besides college.

The plans being set in place for the coming year are made to address the issues raised by the California Healthy Kids Survey [CHKS] proctored in the fall of the 2015 school year. The significantly raised levels of stress led the Governing Board to consider the following measures to more thoroughly support students within the district. This includes a committee dedicated to following up on Challenge Success, a mental health task force, and revised parameters for graduation.

“What we did, was compound what we require in our district to what other schools in the state require. We then compiled them and made several recommendations,” said Glimme.

The ultimate goal is to raise student health and academic excellence levels. Glimme also stated that the committee hopes to prioritize students by expanding class options, promoting diverse behaviors in school and extracurricular activities, and expand critical thinking skills within the district body.

The governing board members will vote on the changes on June 1. If passed, they will impact next year’s freshman class.