Changes to Graduation Requirements to be Implemented Next Year

Owen Hopwood ‘19
EE Contributor

In an effort to better prepare all students for their unique futures, the Connecticut General Assembly made major changes to the graduation requirements for high school students in Connecticut public schools. Although these changes were agreed upon in 2017, they will only be implemented starting next year for freshmen.

Major changes include an increase in the number of required credits, significant emphasis on flexibility and multiple pathways, less restrictive course requirements, and a new mastery-based diploma assessment requirement, which will take form as an exam.

Whereas, at the moment students must complete a minimum of 20 credits, with the new changes 25 credits would be required. However, guidance has confirmed that the vast majority of students currently reach that number by graduation at Trumbull High, so it shouldn’t be a big adjustment for most.

The specific credit requirements are now significantly different from the traditional study areas that students are used to. Now, social studies, English, and the arts are all in one category called “the humanities.” Then, another category called “STEM” includes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There is also an added one credit required in health education, with one credit still required in physical education. A mandatory credit in world languages has also been added, along with a credit of mastery-based diploma assessment.

Mastery-based learning will be assessed based on students’ performance on statewide mastery exams. The mastery-based diploma assessment has been implemented by other Connecticut schools but won’t be mandatory until next year.
“According to the statute,” State Representative David Rutigliano said, “students would be awarded credit in [mastery-based assessment] through a demonstration of mastery based on competency and performance standards, in accordance with guidelines adopted by the State Board of Education.” The performance standards Rutigliano speaks of are ones for the exams that will be designed to measure students’ proficiency.

As for regular classes, nine credits will be needed in each the humanities and STEM over four years. This is where much of the increased flexibility will stem from in the curriculum, as the specific subjects taken within these two larger areas of study can vary for each student.

“Although the actual number of credits has increased, in theory, the course requirements will be less restrictive,” Rutigliano said. For instance, if a student found English classes to be stressful, they could opt to take other humanities they might be more fond of, such as history-based classes. According to Rutigliano, they thought it was important to make these changes in order to promote a more personalized educational experience, allowing students to have more flexibility in their course choices.

Some students, parents, and teachers are worried about an increase in pressure on students as a result of these changes.

“These changes are quite immense and will certainly pose a challenge to future students,” said Tejas Kulkarni, a senior. “Fortunately, I won’t have to deal with it.” When asked how he thought these changes would challenge students, Kulkarni said he felt that the increase in credits and standardized tests is “just another added stress to the already taxing process of education.”

In addition to added pressure on students, these changes also pose a challenge to schools to implement and follow the new guidelines. The task of preparing students for the new tests may be a factor for teachers as well.

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