Graduation requirements get tweak

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LEDGER – There are minor changes on the docket for graduation requirements in Mitchell County Schools.

Career Technical Education Director Kim Hodshon discussed the changes Thursday, Nov. 21, during the regular meeting of the Mitchell County Board of Education.

In particular, Hodshon said, changes are coming to the social studies credit and the four-course concentration credit requirements for high schoolers. 

Four years ago, Mitchell County Schools established a personal finance credit as a graduation requirement. Recently passed North Carolina House Bill 924 makes personal finance credit a requirement for schools in the state, making North Carolina one of 20 other states who have established the requirement. After the passing of the bill, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction established that a social studies teacher must teach the personal finance course. Mitchell County currently uses CTE teachers to teach the course.

With that change, personal finance becomes one of four required social studies credits – there cannot be five required social studies credits. 

The more likely revision to credits, Hodshon said, will be establishing finance as its own credit and reducing American History from two credits to one. 

The board will have to revisit its policy on the personal finance requirement and three groups of students – the current high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors – that will not have personal finance as a graduation requirement. 

The other change to graduation requirements comes in the four-course concentration requirement, which was established by the school system to keep students engaged in an area about which they are passionate. Under that requirement, students were required to complete four courses in a specific cluster such as drama, music or art. 

“We saw that when a kid gets engaged in an area, they’re more likely to graduate,” Hodhson said. “It has worked great.”

The courses, which were taught through CTE and are thus federally funded, are subject to federal changes. New federal changes say cluster concentrations can only be two or three courses. 

As a result, the school system will be forced to remove the four-course concentration graduation requirement, starting with next year’s freshmen. 

The changes, however, mean students can now mix credits to cover more than one subject. 

While the changes will affect graduation requirements, it won’t change how students are advised, Hodshon assured the board. 

“They’ll still have room in their schedule to do the courses they want to do, but they may mix whereas before, it had to be within the same concentration,” she said. “We will still encourage students to take what is available for their interests.”