Incoming SBHS students face tougher graduation curve

The class of 2014 celebrates the conclusion of the San Benito High School graduation ceremony Friday.

The freshmen class of 2016-17 at San Benito High School may be in for some drastically different graduation requirements.
If the proposed board policies regarding graduation requirements are approved later this month, these students have to complete the courses required to attend California State University or University of California schools before they can graduate.
Of the graduating class last year, 42 percent took the courses they needed—called A-G requirements—to attend these state colleges.
“When you adopt this tonight, we’ll be one of the most advanced high school districts in the area,” Superintendent John Perales told trustees Jan. 14. “To me, that’s what this is about: believing our kids can achieve at high levels.”
At the meeting last week, trustees did a first reading of the board policies, and the topic will return at the next regularly scheduled board meeting Jan. 28 for a potential vote.
The cost resulting from these changes is about $238,250 to hire 2.5 additional full-time-equivalent language instructors so that the school can offer up to 13 additional sections of world language. The school would need to offer these courses to make sure students have the opportunity to complete the two years of classes in the same language required for admission to the state’s public university systems.
Timothy Shellito, a newly adopted member of the Citizens’ Oversight Committee and a former principal of the site, urged trustees to match their higher expectations of achievement with more funding to support teachers and to work with feeder elementary schools so that students are prepared for the classes they’ll need to take in high school.
“If we don’t move in that direction, you’re hanging teachers out without support and you’ll have high rates of failure and people not graduating because of that,” he said during the hearing.
Highlights of the proposed graduation requirements include replacing the earth science class with biology and adding more advanced math requirements, including Algebra II.
“That is a big change for us,” said Cindi Krokower, the director of educational services. “We do require three classes of math but not Algebra II.”
If approved, the new requirements would also say students must earn passing grades in the three math classes, not just attempt them.
Board President Ray Rodriguez suggested the district could call the pathway—which would require students to meet A-G requirements in order to graduate—the “default” path. But Trustee Bill Tiffany suggested that might be a step too far, and could make those who didn’t want to go to college feel inferior.
“I don’t think they should feel like second-class citizens because they choose a more career-orientated pathway,” Tiffany said.
Trustee Steve DeLay and the superintendent chimed in on the debate, and critiqued the use of the word “default” but still wanted to name the pathway in such a way that it was clear the goal was to prepare all students for higher education, if they want it.
“You know, I like Ray’s idea of ‘default’ but I don’t like the word,” DeLay said.
“Every time I hear ‘default’ I think, ‘There’s another option,’” Perales added.
This school district is not unified, meaning students come from a variety of feeder elementary schools with varying academic standards before arriving at the high school.
Newly elected Trustee Juan Robledo questioned whether all students would be prepared for high school biology, especially if they came from schools where teachers had dropped science from the schedule as they focused their attention on the new Common Core state standards.  
“In some areas, it might be possible that some teachers ignored science,” he said.
“That is always, of course, a concern with us because we are not unified,” Krokower said. “We continue to work with our feeder schools.”

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