The responsibility of Gilbert Public Schools is to provide students with the opportunity to obtain a comprehensive education. When it comes to high school, this includes providing instruction six periods a day for four years.
Sadly, students who shortchange themselves of this opportunity can experience serious negative consequences at institutions of higher education and in the general work force.
This is why I voted for increased graduation requirements, and will continue to work for the most complete educational experience possible.
The Gilbert district recently embraced the concept of rigor, relevance and relationships to guide the district into the future.
In Arizona, Gilbert is one of the top-performing districts but based on U.S. Department of Education statistics, Arizona falls below the national average across all subject areas tested. We should not be satisfied with the status quo, but rather strive to be among the best in the nation and the world.
The rigor part of the equation includes both the content that is being taught and the work ethic that comes from carrying a full load of classes. The state-mandated increase in math and science credits speaks in part to the recognized need to inject more rigor into the public school system. Students who coast their senior year by not taking a full class load risk losing their momentum if they move on to the more rigorous environment of college.
For those students who move into the work force, they also lose the concept of what it means to put in a full day’s work. Many people have stated that seniors need the option to leave school early to go to jobs but indications are that many of the early release seniors do not spend their afternoons at work.
There are concerns regarding communication between the board and the community. With respect to the current issue of increased graduation requirements, some community members have charged that the board has not listened to their concerns.
This is not true, as evidenced by a change from the initially approved 24-credit requirement to a compromise requirement of 23. The board will work to address communication concerns in the new year with the hope that the community will seek to become more informed and provide proactive, instead of reactive, feedback.
Many of the concerns expressed over the increase in graduation requirements are misinformed. One stated concern is that this increase will somehow limit the ability to take fine arts classes such as music. The fact is that the state-mandated increase in math and science will actually allow fewer elective options in future class schedules — unless we actively prevent that from occurring. Raising the credit requirement and maintaining the current elective requirements protect options for our students.
Another voiced concern is that increasing the credit requirement will place a limitation on extracurricular activities, but since these fall outside the normal school day there will be no direct effect by increasing credits. As families choose those activities that their students participate in, it is important to remember that core education should come first and be augmented by extracurricular programs.
With regard to the district budget, it should be noted that with the credit increase that maintains the current elective requirements, no additional teachers will need to be hired for elective courses. The cost that the district has and will have to absorb is the hiring of math and science teachers to cover the added credits in those areas mandated by the state. One of the biggest challenges to districts around the state is finding qualified teachers to fill the positions resulting from the new mandate.
In the face of state and national mandates for improved student performance in specific subject areas, our district would be negligent if we did not maintain and enhance the comprehensive educational opportunities currently offered to our students.
Thad Stump is a member of the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board.