High School Students to Take More Math, Science and English

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    By Deborah Skousen

    Ready or not, Utah high school students will soon be required to take more math, science and English courses. The State Board of Education is proposing to add another required year to each of these core subjects.

    For students graduating in 2011, three years of math, three years of science and four years of language arts will be the minimum, according to the Utah State Board of Education. Current seventh graders will be the first to be affected by these new graduation requirements.

    However, officials from Provo School District are concerned about funding limitations and scheduling changes that will come as a result.

    “I am in favor of increasing math and science, but you cannot do that in a vacuum,” said Randall Merrill, superintendent of Provo School District. “It has a domino affect on students and staffing.”

    Merrill said he is concerned that with limited funding, the district will have to cut elective courses to provide for new math, science and English courses.

    The whole idea of a high school is to have a strong academic base, but to allow exploration, Merrill said. By mandating requirements you reduce the opportunity for elective choices by the students.

    School officials are also concerned about finding the teaching power to accommodate new courses. Qualified math teachers are difficult to find and are in high demand, said Shannon Poulsen, Provo School Board president.

    “We are trying to do the best we can with the money we”ve got,” she said.

    Provo School District has put together a $28 million bond and $2.3 million increase in voter leeway property tax that will be voted on June 27th of this year. If the bond is passed, a portion of the funding will go toward hiring more teachers for new courses.

    The district also plans to create a committee to look at scheduling changes that will need to be made in light of new requirements. The committee will be made up of teachers, administrators, parents and board members. According to Merrill, it will be a committee of stakeholders.

    “If you assume kids will want to take the same electives as in the past – auto, music, etc. – we are going to need more class periods in a day,” Merrill said. “I think the schedules that have more opportunities for kids to take more classes will most likely be favored [by the committee].”

    As of now, Timpview High School has seven periods a day and Provo High School is a on an eight-block schedule. Both schools will remain on their current schedules for one more year, and new schedules will begin fall of 2007.

    “We want to do the best thing for our kids,” said George Bayles, principal of Timpview High School.

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