D.C. high school students would have to study more art and music, get more physical exercise and complete a thesis project under proposed changes to city graduation requirements.
The proposal by the D.C. State Board of Education would raise the total number of required high school course credits in the District from 24 to 26 — more than students need to earn diplomas in Maryland, Virginia and many other states.
But for the first time, D.C. students would be allowed to earn some credits outside the classroom, including through team sports, study-abroad programs and extracurricular arts and music performances.
“Our goal is to create high standards but also to provide flexibility for students and schools,” said Laura Slover, board president. “We really want kids to learn. Sometimes they do that in a classroom, and sometime they do that out of a classroom.”
The plan has drawn skepticism, however, from critics who question how and whether schools will verify students’ extracurricular activities.
“Certifying non-classroom hours only invites fabrication,” wrote Erich Martel, a former DCPS high school teacher, in a letter to the Current newspapers.
One proposed change — to eliminate the requirement that students take a course in U.S. government to graduate from high school — has already proven particularly contentious, particularly among advocates for civics education. Slover said she recognizes the concern and considers that proposal “open to discussion.”
The board will hear public comment on the proposed changes at its Wednesday meeting. It plans to vote on the proposal on March 20.
The proposal comes as the District struggles to raise graduation rates. Fewer than two-thirds of D.C. high school students earn a diploma within four years, giving the District a lower on-time graduation rate than any of the 50 states.