This spring our Board of Education will adopt a new set of graduation guidelines that will greatly shift the process of earning a high school diploma.
When most of us went to school, our graduation was based on taking a certain number of classes and getting passing grades. This system had nothing to do with what we knew, but how we played the game.
In the spring of 2015, the Colorado State Board of Education adopted new minimum graduation expectations that all districts and schools in Colorado must meet by 2021 to ensure that high school diplomas have consistent value across our state by ensuring that students who earn one will demonstrate competency of skill. I embrace this concept as it is important that we ensure that students are prepared for life after high school – be it college, the military, trade school or a career.
One of the draws I had to Durango was the continuation of programs in career and technical education, as well as the arts. Yes, unfortunately, our budget challenges have caused us to reduce some of these programs, yet high schools across the state have been forced to make far deeper cuts to these programs. Through changes at the high school next year, we have created opportunities for students to pursue their passions and find their pathway to future success.
While my goal remains to have every graduate able to make a choice for his or her own future, I recognize that not every student will choose to go to college. Today, there are many careers that are well-paying and critical to our society that don’t require a college education. Skilled labor, however, is in scarce supply for many of these careers. We continue to build on our partnership with Southwest Colorado Community College and Fort Lewis College to provide opportunities for students to not only demonstrate competency in skill, but graduate with industry preparation that allows them to be employable.
Last week, we were lucky to have the Colorado Legislature pass House Bill 16-1289, which will provide financial support to districts who assist students in completing career development courses, a most critical need in these times of financial challenges. I was happy to support the legislators and advocacy groups – specifically Colorado Succeeds, which successfully ushered this through. I thank Sen. Ellen Roberts and Rep. J. Paul Brown for their support of this important legislation.
On May 18, the school board and I will host an opportunity to review our proposed graduation guidelines to be used in Durango and get feedback from our community. In addition to needing to take courses that support a student’s selected pathway, students will need to demonstrate competency through a variety of options. These new rigorous standards will apply to next year’s ninth-graders, however they will begin to change the opportunities for students already at Durango High School.
Email Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.