Georgia’s New Graduation Requirements

Georgia is making changes in its requirements for graduation that will go into effect beginning with next year’s ninth grade class (the class of 2012). What follows is a table I adapted from my daughter’s school counselor’s publication for high school transition:

Current Rule Proposed Rule
4 tiers with different requirements: College Preparatory (CP), College Preparatory with Distinction (CP+), Technology/Career (TC), and Technology/Career with Distinction (TC+) One common set of requirements for all students
22 total Carnegie units required for CP and TC, 24 units required for CP+ and TC+ 23 total Carnegie units required for all students
4 units of English required for all students 4 units of English required for all students
4 units of math required for CP and CP+, 3 units of math required for TC and TC+ 4 units of math required for all students
3 units of science required for all students 4 units of science required for all students (the 4th unit of science can be used to meet both science and elective requirements)
3 units of social studies required for all students 3 units of social studies required for all students, all courses are specifically identified
1 unit of health/PE required for all students 1 unit of health/PE required for all students; 3 units of JROTC may be used to meet the requirements
1 unit of computer techology and/or fine arts and/or technology career preparatory and/or foreign language required for all students; 2 units of foreign language required for CP and CP+ students 3 units required from CTAE and/or foreign language and/or fina arts; foreign language is not required for any student to graduate, whether CP or not
5-6 additional elective units depending on tier (CP, CP+, TC, TC+) 4 additional units of elective units for all students

Basically, Georgia is doing away with Technology/Career diplomas and building one set of requirements for all Georgia graduates. I would like to know more before I criticize the new set of requirements, but I have to say that I’m not sure this is a good idea. Tech/Career prep programs often provided a good alternative for students who didn’t plan to go to college. I have the following questions:

  1. Do the new requirements mean that Georgia is doing away with TC-level academic classes? Back when I was teaching in public school, there were “Vocational track” classes for students who didn’t intend to go to college. Therefore, will students who don’t intend to go to college still take what are essentially CP-level academic classes?
  2. Students entering college will still have to have two units of foreign language in order to get into college. I understand that these units will have to come from the electives requirements. Will this be a problem for students who have to take foreign language? What do our colleges think of changing this requirement so that foreign language is no longer required for graduation?
  3. What do my peers currently teaching in Georgia public schools (or elsewhere for that matter) think of these changes?

You can check out this section of the Georgia DOE website for more information.

5 thoughts on “Georgia’s New Graduation Requirements”

  1. Hi – I've been reading your blog for a while now – as a former English teacher, I enjoy your perspective.

    As a principal of a technical center & technical high school, I'd like to comment on your question #1. I think doing away with the so-called vocational track is a VERY good idea, for 2 reasons:

    1- The "world of work" has changed… most jobs now require a lot more in the way of critical thinking, analytical ability, and so on, than they used to. College degrees are no longer the only path to a successful, lucrative career (for that matter, they're not even the best path in many cases), but filtering non-college-bound students through a track that allows them to take 'dumbed-down' classes will not give them the skills they need to move beyond low-level work – we need to move beyond the idea that it is only "college bound" students who need rigorous intellectual work

    2- Putting kids into a track is always dangerous – it traps them. What happens if a student starts out on a non-college-bound path, only to decide after a year or two that s/he does, in fact, want to go to college? S/he could really be behind the eight ball if s/he has been taking lower-level courses, or fewer rigorous ones, only to then decide s/he has different goals. We need to challenge ALL kids to a high level, give them safety nets for when they struggle, and make sure we haven't condemned them to limited choices by the courses we've allowed them to settle for.

    As you might be able to tell, I feel pretty strongly about this issue. Schools label kids college bound/non college bound, or they allow students to label themselves that way, and then choices are made that become self-fulfilling. Better to challenge them all, and let the choices come as they finish high school.

  2. Jeannette, thank you so much for commenting. You have a really good point about kids who change their mind. I didn't think about the Vocational courses in terms of being dumbed-down. I taught Vocational English some years ago, and I don't recall dumbing down so much as approaching the class differently; however, I can't say all Vocational English teachers took the same approach. One of my favorite classes ever was a group of Vocational students — about 15 kids in the class, which was, unfortunately, rare. I suppose my worry is what happens to the college prep class? Will teachers, in seeking to find equilibrium, instead of challenging all students, dumb down their CP classes? I hope not.

    On a personal note, when I taught middle school, I challenged my students, knowing what awaited them in high school and knowing the high failure rate for 9th grade English classes. Instead of supporting me, my principal chastised me. How refreshing to work with a principal who did believe in challenging all students!

  3. Dana – You make a very good point about Voc classes not necessarily being dumbed down, and I'm glad about that. My concern is that, as you say, not all teachers take that approach, so that in many cases the teachers do lower their expectations. When I first began teaching, my preps included a "skills" English class and a "dropout prevention" English class – and it was made clear to me, from the texts I was given to use and the information I was given from the department head, that my expectations could – and should – be much lower for those kids. I raised a few eyebrows when I asked to be given sets of the same texts that were used in the other English classes.

    You raise a very fair concern, as well, about not dumbing down the work for kids who've defined themselves as college bound. In my experience, even a class of "all college bound" has students in it with a wide range of abilities, so I think that separating kids into the tracks, as if that somehow removes variables in ability, lulls us into false thinking. It's all about facing the task which is, I believe, the single hardest but most important thing about teaching – differentiating our instructional practices to meet the individual needs of every student in our classes.

    My hat is off to you and teachers like you who try to meet this challenge, as it's a difficult one.

  4. Yes, Ms. Profe, foreign language is not required for graduation. The rub is that it is still required for college entrance. Therefore, college-bound students will still need to take it, and heaven help them if their college counselors in school don't make sure they do it. I think what was behind the change in that particular requirement is that foreign language classes are considered to be too difficult to require of all students. I happen to disagree and only wish all of our students were learning foreign languages from the time they entered school so that they might be fluent in another language by the time they graduate just as students in other countries are. But that's American attitude for you.

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