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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 1, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesBoard of Education Raises Graduation Requirements

Board of Education Raises Graduation Requirements

The V.I. Board of Education voted at an emergency session held Wednesday morning to update the requirements for those earning a diploma. The changes were relatively minor, but elicited strong emotions from some of the board members.

Virgin Islands students will now be required to take four years of math, rather than three. In addition, world history was made a mandatory subject, raising the number of required social studies courses to three.

Previously, the curriculum required students to take one unit of “developmental reading/writing” and one unit of “industrial arts or home economics or pre-vocational agriculture.” These requirements were removed and replaced with one course in either fine art or one of the career clusters.

In total, students must complete 21 mandatory credits (up from the previous requirement of 20) and an additional five elective credits.

The board also approved three new policies aimed at increasing graduation rates.

The first will require schools to prepare a “graduation exit plan” for each student. Guidance counselors will meet with students during the first semester of each year and go over what courses they need to graduate and formulate a plan for meeting those requirements. The plan must be signed by the counselor, student and their parent or guardian every year.

Chairwoman Winona Hendricks said the goal was to ensure that students know exactly what is expected of them.

To better enable their planning, the board also passed a policy calling on schools to provide each incoming freshman with a list of all academic, technical and online courses available to them.

Finally the board approved a measure requiring the Department of Education to conduct a yearly “drop out survey.” The survey will identify “students who are failing academically and who are disengaged from school activities.” The policy calls for these students to receive “wraparound services,” such as tutoring or mentoring.

All policies and new requirements will go into effect for the 2013-14 school year. The higher requirements will only apply to freshmen entering high school that year.

The vote was the culmination of two years of work by the board. Hendricks said the proposals were the results of countless meetings with teachers, counselors and the public, and that the points of the plan had been exhaustively debated by the board.

That did not stop some members from raising further concerns Wednesday.

“I don’t feel comfortable with this document,” said Judy Gomez, who strongly objected to a provision of the math requirements that would allow students to take up to four remedial courses. These courses would only count as electives, however, and not satisfy the four-course requirement.

Gomez said that this would put some students who are far behind in the position of taking eight math classes. She believed this wasn’t the best approach and that exceptions should be made on a case-by-case basis.

After about a half hour of debate, Hendricks urged her colleagues to put an end to the debate and finally put the proposal to an up-or-down vote.

“We’re regurgitating many of the conversations and discussions we’ve had over and over again on this document,” she said.

Voting for the bill were board members Hendricks, Terrence Joseph, Keith Richards, Cheryl Francis, Arah Lockhart and Oswin Sewer. Members Debra Smith-Watlington and Janis Esannason were absent. Gomez abstained.

After the meeting, Hendricks expressed relief that the proposals passed. She said she had called the emergency meeting to give the board one last chance to finish their work before new members are sworn in on Monday.

Hendricks said she was concerned that if they had failed to do so before then, the new board may have wanted to start from scratch, putting to waste the work of the last two years.

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