CLOVER -- School board members told district administrative officials to move forward with drafting a new high school graduation policy that will require seniors to take a full schedule of classes, even if they only need a few classes to meet the state required 24 credits to graduate Monday night.
"By the time our GT students get to high school no one is pushing them any more," Superintendent Dr. Marc Sosne told the board describing the impetus for the change. "Close to 30 percent of high school seniors don't take a full load, they're only taking one or two courses a semester.
"As educators we have a responsibility to push our kids," he continued. "High school graduation is not an ending, it's the beginning of what's coming next."
He said allowing the lax schedule is a disservice to students and their parents because it is not preparing them for the rigors of college or for the expectations of employers for those students who enter the workforce after high school.
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The state requires a total of 24 credits for graduation. With Clover's block schedule students rack up nearly that many credits by the end of their junior year, assuming they don't fail and have to retake any classes. That leaves many students with the prospect of only needing one or two classes to graduate their senior year, and many take advantage of that with extremely light schedules.
Under the new plan, which has yet to be formalized into district policy, the class of 2013, next year's incoming freshmen, will be required to take a full load of classes every semester, regardless of the number of credits they accrue, according to Assistant Superintendent Ron Wright.
"An exciting thing being explored across the state is dual credit classes or even allowing high school students to begin taking college level classes," Wright said.
That could mean students from Clover spending part of their day at York Tech in Rock Hill earning college credits, he added.
The new policy does not set a specific number of credits, and uses the "full schedule" or "full load" language to allow the principal at Clover High latitude to make decisions about individual students' schedules.
For example, if a student enrolls in a class at York Tech, it may not line up with the high school's block schedule, and travel time from Clover to Rock Hill may make it impossible for that student to take four classes each day. In cases like that, a full load may mean three classes, Wright said.
The new policy could also encourage more students to use school-to-work internships to take jobs in fields they are interested in pursuing as a career, because the internships could be counted towards the full schedule, Wright said.
The new policy is set to start with next year's freshman class because administration officials didn't think it would be fair to change requirements "mid-stream" on students already enrolled at the high school, Sosne said. Not implementing the policy with the current junior class - next year's seniors - also gives the district time to add staff and class sections to accommodate a senior class that will be approximately 30 percent larger than the current class four years from now.
"We have a core of students now that graduate with 32 credits and would go higher if they could," Wright said. "But where I see this helping ... for every student who goes to major in business and leaves Clover High School without ever taking an accounting class."
The new policy will allow for students to take more elective courses. They still must meet the state requirements which include four English/language arts credits, four math credits, three science credits, one U.S. history credit, half a credit of American government, half a credit of economics, one credit of other social studies, one physical education credit, one computer science credit, one foreign language credit, half a credit of comprehensive health and six and a half credits for electives.
Students who fail any of those courses will have to make them up, but if they take additional courses, not required by the state, and do poorly in those they would not have to make them up to graduate, Wright said.
"It would hurt their GPA, but it won't keep them from graduating," he said.
The additional classes will help many students better prepare for college, Sosne said, because both the College of Charleston and Clemson University now require incoming students to have three foreign language credits, two more than are required to get a high school diploma. Many schools also require three lab science courses, where as high school students can graduate with two lab science credits and a credit for earth science, which is not a lab science.
"The challenge is going to be trying to convince parents and students that class rank isn't always the most important thing," Board member Joe Gordon said. "It's what you get out of it and take with you."
The board will officially vote on the new policy during it's meeting in April.