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Future Wauwatosa high school graduates face new math requirements

July 30, 2014

As a result of a new state law, this year's sophomores and students below them will have to take three years each of high school science and math before graduation, rather than just two of each as has been required of previous classes.

The Wauwatosa School Board had already voted independently to increase its science requirements before the law came down. At their meeting July 28, members discussed how to implement both requirements.

According to a proposal from Director of Student Learning Beth Erenberger, the electives requirements would be reduced by two credits, from nine to seven, beginning with the class of 2017, to compensate for the extra math and science credit requirements.

Superintendent Phil Ertl said he does not expect the changes to impact class choices enough that staffing would have to change. About 90 percent of students already choose to take three years of science, and 80 percent take three years of math, according to district staff.

"It could have an impact on electives, but that will be somewhat minimized by the fact that not all students take the same kind of elective, so the impact will be dispersed," Erenberger said.

The state law also allows districts to count computer science and technical education courses toward math and science credit. Erenberger said the district doesn't currently offer any computer science classes, but staff would consider the option in light of the new law.

To add another pathway toward fulfilling the math and science requirement, Erenberger's proposal would give middle school students high school credit for high-school-equivalent courses. Their grades in those courses would then be part of their cumulative high school grade point average.

Also as part of the graduation policy changes, district staff recommended clarifying requirements for an honors diploma. Currently, students are generally required to earn a minimum 3.33 cumulative grade point average and take the Honors Challenge Seminar to graduate with honors. Erenberger proposed adding an option of taking an advanced placement course rather than the seminar, in an effort to move toward the board's goal of having every student complete an AP course before graduation.

Some School Board members were concerned that a 3.33 GPA and a single AP course might be too low a standard for honors.

"I'm concerned this is watering down our honors diploma a bit," School Board member Anne Fee said. "Not all AP classes are created equal, and there should be at least some minimal grade requirement in the AP course to qualify."

School Board President Mary Jo Randall said she thought if they added a grade requirement to the AP course, they would need to add it to the Honors Challenge Seminar as well.

Erenberger said district staff would consider the grade requirement and she would bring a revised proposal back to the board for a vote at a later meeting.

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