BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — In an effort to keep struggling high school students from dropping out prior to graduation, Davis School District may lower graduation requirements in specific cases.
Students in the district must now earn 27 credits to graduate with their classes, but district officials are considering lowering the number to 24 credits, the minimum required by state law, in a case-by-case basis.
Requirements for making up “U” (for unsatisfactory) citizenship grades, which now require both payment and community service, may be softened in some extreme cases as well.
Students getting a limited diploma would not walk with their classmates at graduation or have a diploma from their high school. Rather, they would earn what might be called a Davis School District “secondary diploma.”
“Our idea actually stemmed from speaking to comprehensive guidance counselors,” said Casey Layton, director of comprehensive counseling and guidance in the district.
“Sometimes the hole got too big and there was no light at the end of the tunnel” for students, he said. “A 27-credit diploma got further and further away from their grasp.”
Superintendent Bryan Bowles also addressed members of the Davis School Board on Tuesday, explaining the need for the change and seeking input before pursuing a new policy.
“If we have even one student drop out, it worries us,” he said. “We don’t want that.”
Davis School District’s graduation rate is, in fact, very high, said Bowles.
District staff reviewed detailed information on each student who left the school system before graduating, he said.
“We asked, ‘Why?’ What can we learn from this, what can we learn for the future so we can do a better job,” he said. “We wanted to find holes and gaps.”
Students might choose to leave the district for adult education classes or leave education entirely, and some get a GED later.
A secondary diploma would open doors at universities, in the military and with employment opportunities that a student with a GED would not have, said Layton.
Board members expressed concern that a new policy might draw students who would otherwise meet the full standards.
“Don’t make the citizenship requirements too lax,” said Peter Cannon, a member of the board. “We may lose a few who decide to go along with the easy standard and slack off.”
Students given the alternative track would be met with individually and could be asked to go under contract to meet the minimum standards, said Layton.
Though the school system is “a human system,” said Board Member Barbara Smith, “a little black and white” in the policy would help determine when and with whom to implement the new requirements.
“This would give us options and flexibility,” said Brad Christensen, director of student services in the district. “We want to give that child a chance to be successful. We’d rather hold these kids and educate them with rigor.”