St. John students face new rules

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 11, 2001


RESERVE – Several changes, including an additional mathematics course in the set curriculum, new graduation requirements and higher standards for graduating with honors, have been made to the high school criterium in St. John the Baptist Parish Schools. In the past, students have only had to take three math courses – Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry – before they were eligible for graduation. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of this schoolyear, of the 23 units earned, four must be in math. According to East St. John High School Principal Debra Schum, the school system is expanding it to four years because students have been getting poor scores on the mathematics portion of the ACT exam. Also beginning with the incoming freshmen of 2001-02, students who are to graduate as Top Ten Graduates at the end of their four years of high school must have completed both Algebra II and Chemistry. Schum said the students who take Chemistry do better on the science part of the Graduate Exit Exam and have an easier time in science in college. To be designated valedictorian or salutatorian, the student must have taken a minimum of eight courses at the honors level. Schum added that there are 16 honors classes offered during the high school years, which means that students are only required to take half of those. According to Schum, the teachers of honors courses were in favor of requiring the valedictorian and salutatorian take the honors courses. “We have to do a better job of raising expectations,” said Schum. “They know somewhere along the line, they need to take eight honors courses from the beginning.” She added that some students who are capable of honors studies avoid them because they do not want to work as hard. In addition, summer school is only going to be offered to students who have failed courses during the regular school term. This will keep students from taking a course in advance during the summer in order to get it over with or get an “easy A,” which is something Schum said students sometimes do. Another new policy will discourage early graduation, but at the same time allow those who have fallen behind their class to catch up and graduate on time. Students are required to be in their 12th year of school from the time they entered first grade, meaning that if a student had been held back or failed grades in the past, they could work hard and graduate on time. On the other hand, students will not be allowed to graduate a year early. “We’re not advocating a three-year high school,” said Schum. At the same time, principals can make exceptions for students who border on genius. This policy will also begin with this year’s incoming freshmen. Prior to this new policy, students had to have completed at least six semesters of high school to even become a senior, which meant that the older students had no way of ever catching up with their class. “Students need that senior year to get ready for college,” said Schum. “We’re not letting anyone graduate early. This is intended to help more older students graduate on time, so that we don’t have 21-year-olds in high school.” Schum said there is a compromise for those students who feel they are ready for college a year early. Students can attend nearby colleges to earn both college and high school credits. College Algebra and English 101 are two classes that high school seniors often take. “If they are ready to go to college, they can go and get double credit, cost-free,” said Schum. “But, they don’t need to give up the socializing and maturing that they have their senior year in high school.”