Board of Education approves new graduation requirements at Yampa Valley High School
“This is great, maybe you can create a model for the whole district,” Board of Education member Alissa Merage said to Yampa Valley High School Principal Karla Setter after hearing proposed changes to the school’s graduation requirements.
Setter and school counselor Carolyne Maul presented the proposed changes to graduation requirements for Yampa Valley High School at the Monday, May 8, Steamboat Springs Board of Education meeting and received approval.
This new plan creates two different pathways toward graduation: a traditional graduation pathway involving typical course content areas; and a career-focused pathway providing more flexibility to students to pursue other electives or career-connected learning options.
Yampa Valley High School hopes to roll out this new model as soon as next year. Setter told the Board of Education that the school has been working with the Colorado Department of Education’s Innovative Learning Opportunities Pilot Program as well as communicating with other schools with a similar model to inform this process. The school also received a grant from Colorado Department of Education to work with the Colorado Education Initiative.
Board president Katy Lee especially showed appreciation for the plan, noting that when she first got on the Board of Education, the college graduation rate of high school students from the district was only at 50%.
“We can really make a difference at the high-school level by exposing kids to a lot of different things,” Lee said. “I would be excited about that at all of our schools, but I am really excited for you.”
This new graduation path reduces the amount of core content classes the student must take, freeing them up to pursue different elective, career-related classes, and even potentially pursue an associate degree through a community college.
Students will be required to only take two years of English, math, social studies and science as long as they make the cut score for Colorado Department of Education proficiency requirements for graduation.
Maul said what drove the school to explore this possibility was more students coming to the school saying they have a desire to have more meaningful learning opportunities that could support them in heading toward a career.
“We have seen an increase with students feeling restricted with the current traditional graduation pathway, and many of them voice the need for career relevance throughout the day,” Maul said.
The traditional graduation path aligns with the school’s current content-area credit requirements. Students must take four years of English and three years of math, science and social studies. Setter noted that generally the school would make the assumption that students would take this path unless the student and a guardian met with staff and decided otherwise.
Additionally, the school will mandate a senior capstone class that will be specifically designed to help students with the transition out of high school and into the real world. This could cover a variety of topics, such as help applying to college, career exploration and relevant personal finance education.
The school also added a career-connected learning course for which details continue to evolve.
“It’s a course that does not fit exactly into one of the content-area buckets; it could fit in any content-area bucket,” Setter told board members. “What this would show is a student graduating from Yampa Valley High School successfully completed a course that’s aligned with a career or a college.”
Setter explained this could be an internship or something that involves an Industry Certification course such as a welding course.
Students still will be required to take a Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) course, but can complete that course during any of their four years at Yampa Valley High School.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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