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Monday (yesterday) the Proviso Township High Schools board of education held its regular meeting. See pths209.org for agenda. The meeting featured conflict, including a threat to have security remove me from the meeting. This was the last board meeting before the April elections.
However, the most significant policy adopted was a recommendation by superintendent Stan Fields to reduce the number of credits required to graduate while increasing the rigor of core courses.
One aspect of the proposal is to require students pass grade level classes to be promoted to the next grade level. Students would no longer get credit for remedial courses. To be promoted with their peers students would be responsible for doing remedial work before the beginning of the school year (summer) and then they would have to pass their grade level courses in the required subjects.
Another aspect of the proposal is to all but eliminate electives. Students would be required to take only one elective to graduate. Electives would be replaced by extracurricular activities and community service. As part of the push to encourage extracurricular participation Proviso Township High Schools would reduce academic eligibility requirements to the minimum allowed by state law. IIRC (If I recall correctly) Proviso’s current standards are a 2.0 GPA; Illinois allows extracurricular participation with a 1.0 GPA.
(Fields was a collegiate football player and was teammates with Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.)
One criticism of Fields change to the graduation requirements is that it reduces the number of classes taught by reducing the credits required to graduate and lengthening class periods. This would allow Proviso High Schools to service the same number of students with fewer teachers. One criticism I have aired of Fields’ changes is that it is a cost-cutting measure disguised as an education policy.
Fields responded to this criticism by saying with the additional remedial classes--classes that wouldn’t count toward graduation--the plan would increase the total number of teachers required.
If people buy into the plan it should work to produce graduates who score better on standardized tests. I wouldn’t want to go to school in a district that eliminated electives. I wouldn’t want members of my family to go to a high school that eliminated electives. And I doubt Fields will send his children to an elective-less high school. But if students and teachers buy into Fields’ plan test scores should come up.
Here are some concerns:
1. Fields made significant changes to the educational program without engaging the community about what he was doing and why. He made the proposal at last month’s board meeting and he implemented it this month. It was passed in a 4-3 vote. I am not aware of any attempt by Fields to engage any stakeholders who weren’t guaranteed to agree with his proposals.
2. I doubt Fields has studied the ability of community organizations to supervise large numbers of students doing community service. I also doubt he analyzed how the schools will offer extracurricular programs to significantly more students. If he did examine these issues he didn’t brief the board of education.
Discuss and add your perspective in comments.
Labels: Carl Nyberg, District 209, graduation requirements, Stan Fields