Incoming freshmen to need more credits

As eighth-graders get excited about finishing up their middle school years and looking forward to starting high school, they need to get focused on what’s ahead, said David Kagawa, Kauai District Resource Teacher.

Graduation requirements for a High School Diploma will increase from 22 to 24 credits with next year’s freshman class.

The additional two credits will need to be earned in World Language or Fine Arts or Career and Technical Education. Another change is that instead of .5 credit or a semester of Guidance, a Personal/Transition Plan will be required. Students wishing to earn a Board of Education Recognition Diploma will need to also earn one credit for a Senior Project and attain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

“With current school schedules allowing students to earn six credits per year, students must focus and ‘not cruise’ through their high school courses,” Kagawa said.

With students needing 24 credits to graduate, there isn’t enough time in the school day to make up for failed courses, he said.

Students who need additional math and reading classes to reach proficiency on the Hawaii State Assessment will need to plan carefully. The Personal/Transition Plan will provide assistance.

The increase in graduation requirements goes hand-in-hand with high school redesign or reform efforts. The trend, according to Kagawa, is for ninth- and 10th-graders to work in teams in areas where students get career guidance and planning. Then students select academies for their 11th and 12th grade years.

Recent research indicates that the earlier students focus on careers, the more successful they are after high school, whether they go on for further education or enter the workforce, Kagawa said. As a result, careers are being addressed from kindergarten through grade 12. Elementary schools introduce students to careers. Awareness may come through career fairs or speakers or presentations. Middle Schools allow students more exploration into careers through quarter or semester courses.

“When students see the need for what they are learning, they are more interested in school and achieve more,” Kagawa said.

The result is a better student who will be more qualified to enter the workforce, technical program, community college, or college, he said.

The curriculum needs to address this relationship with the future, so the curriculum needs to be integrated. Kagawa’s example of such integration was that in English classes, language study should include the language of the technology or auto industries. In math, the measurements should be those used in a career.

Kagawa sits on a number of committees like the Workforce Investment Committee, Team Tech, and Health-Related Committee. His involvement in these committees allows him to hear from businesses about job opportunities. Kagawa says businesses feel that there is a need for highly qualified employees and they would like to hire local Kauaians, but they need to advertise throughout the state and the Mainland to fill their positions.

Kagawa’s vision is to prepare a workforce qualified for the jobs of the future to allow “our children to come back and live here.” He doesn’t think that schools can do it alone. Besides teaming and academies, high schools are looking at other redesign elements like different schedules and different assistance programs.

Examples of different schedules include a seven-period rotation or a “4-by-4” which would increase the number of credits students can earn in a year. Examples of different assistance programs include enrichment/tutoring periods or on-line/Internet programs.

Students need to develop a focus and parents need to help their children to think about the future. As a resource teacher, Kagawa strives to tie in all these different elements.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at aharju@kauaipubco.com.

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