Ashland School District: New graduation requirements challenging students

Some Ashland High School students will have difficulty meeting the state's new graduation requirements as they're phased in over the next four years, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said this week.

“What we're starting to see now are some changes that will have an impact on our students,” she told the School Board Monday.

Di Chiro is especially concerned about the change requiring the graduating class of 2014 to take three years of algebra or higher math classes.

“I'm really concerned about this one,” she said. “For kids that struggle in math, or for whatever reason don't enter high school algebra-ready, we're really going to have to alter what we do here.”

“What we really need to see is that kids are algebra-ready in ninth grade.”

Students who don't take algebra in ninth grade will have to take it the next year, followed by two more advanced classes, so they will have no room to repeat a difficult course, Di Chiro said.

The district is working to improve math instruction at Ashland Middle School, and is focusing some classes on more practical applications of math, to try to spark student interest, she said. The district is also considering offering after-school tutoring or catch-up periods for students who need extra help.

The high school offers a series of math classes that will meet the new requirements but are geared toward students who struggle with math. Students can take Algebra Connections 1, Geometry and Algebra Connections 2, and meet the new state requirements, Di Chiro said.

“This is a sequence for kids that aren't math stars,” she said.

Other requirements are taking effect sooner and are proving challenging for some students to meet, she said. The graduating class of 2012 has to show proficiency in reading through passing a standardized test or alternative assessment.

About 92 percent of current Ashland juniors have passed the reading proficiency portion of the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, Di Chiro said. The remaining 8 percent, or 22 students, must still demonstrate proficiency or they will be denied a diploma, she said.

The district, working with other neighboring districts, has created an alternative reading proficiency assessment, which local teachers will grade. Students who haven't passed the OAKS test will have an opportunity to take the alternative test annually, Di Chiro said.

“There are a lot of reasons why students might not pass the OAKS test,” she said. “They may be in special ed, they may be learning English as a second language or they may have just had a bad test day.”

The class of 2012 must also take three years of lab science courses, up from the two years required previously.

About 75 percent of the high school's students are already taking three years of lab science, Di Chiro said.

The changes also affect school officials who need to ensure that the required courses are available to all students.

“This has an impact on students and also has an impact on facilities,” Di Chiro said. “We need to make sure kids have access to these classes and any extra help they may need.”

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or

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