OTHER VOICES: S.D. should slow down on new graduation requirements

July 11, 2018

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question that fills us with wonder as a child, but can quickly turn to consuming dread as we age into our teens.

Because of a change in South Dakota graduation standards, it’s a question our high school students will need to answer before they may be ready.

South Dakota Board of Education Standards has laid out new administration rules that create three “endorsements” emphasizing career-readiness, college-readiness and scholarship-readiness to go with the standard base high school diploma. Students would need to choose which path they intend to take after graduation.

These new standards make it easier to graduate from high school if students choose the base level, career-readiness and even college readiness paths. In each case, vital courses like World History, Geometry and Geography are no longer requirements.

The change is meant to encourage aptitudes valued by South Dakota industries in order to help solve the employment problem the state is facing.

Director of the Division of Career and Technical Education Laura Scheibe asks us to “think of them like college majors.”

But, the entire reason for the change is because some high school students aren’t college material. How then are we supposed to ask a child, at the age of 14, to ostensibly pick a major? These children aren’t fully equipped to chart a path for their future. Heck, a lot of college students don’t know what their path in life is.

We can see scenarios where students choose the base diploma because it takes the least amount of work.

What happens if that same student decides as a senior they want to go to college? Their high school coursework could have them so far behind the other students, it would be a monumental task to catch up once they got to a university.

We aren’t the only one with concerns. Rapid City Area Schools officials have their doubts, also.

“This very condensed time period does not allow for proper and thoughtful vetting to consider all policy implications, especially for a district the size of Rapid City Area Schools,” said Assistant Superintendent Matthew Seebaum and Melissa Miller Kincart, director of strategic partnerships and college & career readiness, in written responses to questions submitted by the Rapid City Journal.

Seebaum and Miller Kincart also worried that the changes to the base diploma won’t prepare students for post-secondary learning and we do too.

Career readiness is a problem we need to solve in South Dakota. But rushing vital life decisions, lowering base requirements for graduation and forcing local districts to adopt this policy is not the solution.

The public has until Thursday to review the proposed guidelines and make comments online at rules.sd.gov.

We ask the state to slow down and fully vet the potential fallout to this decision.

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