BOE panel recommends changes to graduation requirements

Kathryn Matayoshi
Kathryn Matayoshi
Mark Dannog
Mark Dannog
Nancy Budd
Nancy Budd

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 20 people offered passionate testimony Tuesday on a state Department of Education proposal to change public high school graduation requirements.

Not everyone supports the plan, which includes cutting back on the social studies requirement for students.

After hours of discussion, the Board of Education's Committee on Student Achievement not only voted to send the hotly-debated changes to the full board, it included an amendment that would have the plan kick in two years earlier, starting with the class of 2016.

It's one of the most exciting moments in a young person's life -- receiving that hard-earned high school diploma. But for Hawaii's public school students, getting there may require a different path if superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi has her way.

"Part of it is trying to create that flexibility for the student to create that path for themselves in their education and their future," Matayoshi said.

Her proposal includes reducing the required number of social studies credits from four to three, increasing the number of electives from five to seven, requiring two science laboratory courses, and implementing a single diploma track for all students.

Right now, there are three tracks with different course requirements -- the regular high school diploma, the Board of Education recognition diploma, and the BOE recognition diploma with honors.

"I believe, strongly believe that students should be recognized, those who do take tougher courses and challenge themselves," Mark Dannog, BOE student member, said.

The proposal to cut back on social studies credits drew the most discussion. Some expressed concern about how that change would affect social studies teachers and course offerings, and whether lessening student expectations is the way to go.

"We all think about critical thinking and informed citizenry," Nancy Budd, BOE member, said. "That's really what we want them to look like, and how do we get there?"

But DOE officials argued that their plan would give students more flexibility in selecting courses that are aligned with their specific college and work goals.

"For those students who want more social studies in the many areas that social studies encompasses, they would still have that opportunity," Matayoshi said.

The panel voted to recommend the package to the full board.

"The testimony today was very compelling, persuasive and very heart-felt," Keith Amemiya, BOE member, said.

The committee's approval triggers a 45-day consult and confer process in which the administration will seek input from union officials and professional organizations.

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