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New diploma reaches struggling students
by LOUISE R. SHAW
Jul 23, 2014 | 1633 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DAVIS SCHOOL DISTRICT board member Burke Larsen (left) listens to a question along with Casey Layton (center) and Brad Christensen (right), during a presentation on the district’s new diploma program.  Photo by Louise R. Shaw | Davis Clipper
DAVIS SCHOOL DISTRICT board member Burke Larsen (left) listens to a question along with Casey Layton (center) and Brad Christensen (right), during a presentation on the district’s new diploma program. Photo by Louise R. Shaw | Davis Clipper
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FARMINGTON — This year, 134 students who might otherwise have left school without graduating will receive diplomas from Davis School District.

This is the first year of a new diploma program implemented by the Davis School Board that allows at-risk students to graduate with the 24 credits required by state statute rather than the 27 required by the district.

“It’s very encouraging,” said Brad Christensen, director of student services for the district. “It’s very exciting. It’s good for kids ... you’re giving kids hope.”

This year, 4,311 students graduated with diplomas from Davis district high schools, signifying they reached the 27-credit threshold and had no outstanding unsatisfactory citizenship marks.

Students are counseled through high school to reach that goal, but sometimes it becomes unattainable, said Casey Layton, director of comprehensive counseling and guidance for the district.

If, in the third term of their senior year it becomes obvious it’s not possible to reach that benchmark, counselors will talk with students about the alternate diploma, one that bears the name “Davis School District Diploma” rather than the name of the high school students attend. With that diploma, they do not walk during high school graduation ceremonies.

“Now we have a connection to those students,” said Layton, and rather than see them give up or drop out, they work together until as late as October to complete the requirements for a 2014 diploma.

If students have too many bad citizenship scores  they might just think “they’re done,” he said. “They don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think what we’re we’re doing is giving the kids the light.”

“You get attached to these kids,” he said, “and you don’t want them to fail.”

Superintendent Bryan Bowles also spoke highly of the new program and the increased graduation rates that have resulted.

Whereas Davis High, for example, had a graduation rate of 88.6 percent in 2013, the figure this year is 98.6 percent, according to Bowles. A school’s graduation rate is considered when it is evaluated and given a letter grade.

“This gives a lifeline to kinds who just would give up and not succeed,” said Bowles.

Both Christensen and Layton agreed with Bowles that GEDs don’t carry the weight they used to for students interested in attending  trade schools, the military and colleges.

“I care about that they have the chance – the option,” said Bowles. “We try to give them chances.”

Board president Tamara Lowe called the success in the first year of the program  “phenomenal” and “wonderful.”

“I’m delighted with the results,” she said.

Board members asked staff for more anecdotal information from parents and on individual graduating students. They were told those details will be presented in the fall. 

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