by Kyle Wu, editor
The Santa Rosa City Schools district has significantly lowered the graduation requirements for the class of 2021 in response to increases in failing grades during distance learning.
According to The Press Democrat, seniors at SRCS high schools received a total of 1924 F’s on their first-quarter report cards. At Maria Carrillo High School, there were 1173 Semester 1 F’s, a five percent increase from the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year, according to data provided by Vice Principal Amy Wiese.
The new graduation requirements will divide struggling students into three tiers: one for students who need to complete 130 credits, the minimum set by the state of California, another tier for students who need to complete 180 credits, and a third tier for students who need to complete the standard 220 credits.
According to Wiese, the tier-two requirement of 180 credits is consistent with the UC and CSU requirements. Although the UCs and CSUs only technically require 150 credits, a student needs to pass each class with a C or above to graduate with the tier-two requirement or to be eligible for the colleges. The C or above requirement does not apply to the other two graduation tiers. The 30-credit gap between the tier-two and the university requirements is due to the additional 10 credits of social science and additional 20 credits of PE that are required by the minimum California diploma requirements.
According to Wiese, this year, seniors at risk of not graduating have to sign the Individual Graduation Plan, an agreement that allows students to flexibly adjust their credits needed for graduation. Under this agreement, counselors meet with students and parents to conduct transcript reviews for the student and then adjust a student’s schedule to ensure that they can complete the required credits–those needed for graduation.
“This whole process is very individualized,” said Wiese.
In addition to the IGP, Wiese said that there are several credit recovery programs on campus. On top of the traditional Cyber High, subject-specific credit recovery programs are being implemented. The Credit Recovery program, a program that has been provided in the past and provides extra social science and English courses specifically for MCHS students, has held online classes via Zoom since March. The Acellus program, an online platform where teachers can help students make up for lost math credits, is also being implemented.
Teachers are making changes in their own classes as well. According to Joseph Silvestri, who teaches freshman humanities and senior government and economics at MCHS, he has had to adopt different “strategies and methods” to adapt the curriculum while still being able to “challenges students.” This year, Silvestri says that he has made deals on an individual basis with struggling students to motivate them to succeed. These include extending deadlines or dropping low test scores from the gradebook.
“Teachers have to be especially flexible and accommodating during this time,” said Silvestri.
According to College and Career Center counselor Ashlee Proud-Moreno, current seniors graduating with 130 credits are required to complete a new Life Ready course to receive their diploma. This is an independent, year-long course on Google Classroom that requires students to complete required tasks, including a Santa Rosa Junior College application, a job application, and a senior survey. Students also have to choose three additional tasks to complete, including a mock job application, a resume workshop, attending a career fair, or contacting a military recruiter.
“This course ensures that students have a plan for life after high school,” said Moreno. “The purpose is to show [students] that there are still opportunities for them out there.”
“The purpose is to show [students] that there are still opportunities for them out there.”
Wiese said the school is currently processing course requests for next year. Student performance in classes this year will affect next year’s Master Schedule, the collection of courses offered by MCHS, since their grades this semester will affect the classes they choose for the next school year.
“The Master Schedule changes is an ongoing process that extends into summer since we don’t know what courses students will make up or choose,” said Wiese.
According to Wiese, there may be modified graduation requirements for the future graduating classes as well. While nothing is official yet, the district is currently in the “brainstorming phase,” said Wiese.
Regardless, next year’s courses may see some significant changes. Given the hardships students went through this year, Silvestri said that he is “mentally prepared” to alter next year’s curriculum for his students.
“I’m confident that there will be understanding teachers who know what 2020-2021 was,” said Silvestri.
Because of the challenges this year, Wiese emphasized that a high school diploma, even if earned with fewer credits, does not lessen the significance of the diploma.
“We are in such an extraordinary historical time that has caused such emotional upheaval,” said Wiese. “It’s been a struggle for everyone, and I’m proud of our school, teachers, and students for persevering through this pandemic.”