Students have mixed reactions to increased course requirements

While many students in the class of 2008 find themselves struggling to obtain the necessary credits to graduate, future high-schoolers will have tougher criteria to meet before they can receive their diplomas.

Beginning this fall, freshmen and subsequent classes will be required by the Clark County School District to complete a fourth year of math (eventually earning an Algebra II credit) as well as a third year of science.

Previously, only three years of math and two years of science were required.

In addition to the credit increase, sophomores and subsequent classes also will have to pass a science proficiency exam in addition to the reading, writing and math exams that already are in place.

Other changes include the prerequisite of a 3.25 grade-point average to obtain an advanced diploma, which is offered to students who achieve exceptional grades and a set grade-point average. The grade-point average prerequisite also applies to the Millennium Scholarship, which is open to all Nevada students who plan to attend an in-state public college. The scholarship awards up to $10,000 for undergraduate course work during the six years following high school graduation.

With higher expectations, how do students and educators feel about this change? And what prompted the Clark County School District to raise the bar?

"It’s always good to challenge students so that they can reach their full potential," said Michele Brown, the counseling department chairwoman at Palo Verde High School. "The community wants to hold students more accountable for their knowledge and education."

Taking more classes in high school might help better prepare students for college work, some educators contend. They hope that by adding more math and science work to the curriculum, students will be better informed in each class before they decide what major they plan to pursue.

"I believe that our country is weak in science compared to other countries," Brown said. "We produce fewer math and science majors. In order to advance society we need proficiency in those areas, and by adding an extra math class and science proficiency, we are focusing attention to those subjects."

Some students, however, question the value of the curriculum changes.

"Making students take a standardized test about science is a negative aspect of the change in graduation requirements because you do not need science in everyday life unless you plan on pursuing that field," said class of 2010 student Sarah Buckner, a sophomore at Palo Verde. "While many students may plan on pursuing a career in science and math, for some it may be taking the place of other classes they would prefer or benefit from taking."

Class of 2009 student Ashley Buchanan, a junior at Palo Verde, also opposes the change. "We are already worrying about all of the other proficiency tests as well as the SATs. Why would they want to add on the stress of another test? More things to study for will only worsen our scores."

Not all students, however, think the additional classes will be a waste of time.

"Time is moving on and technology is growing," said class of 2009 student Caleb Moss, a junior at Palo Verde. "Students will need to learn more to keep up with society."

Class of 2010 student Kristen Lewis, a sophomore at Palo Verde, said the change will benefit students in the long run.

"The criteria change will be a positive thing because it will help better prepare us for college," she said. "I still probably would have taken a fourth math class, even if it wasn’t required."

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