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School system considers 3- or 5-year high school plan

July 23, 2002

dank@herald-mail.com

By fall 2003, Washington County Public Schools may have a program that would put some students on pace to graduate a year earlier or a year later than most of their peers, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said Monday.

"We now have a one-size-fits-all system. But one size doesn't fit all," Morgan said.

"We are going to be working feverishly at this this year," she said. "We will be doing research and planning."

A small number of students already graduate earlier or later than most of their peers, Morgan said. But having a program tailored to those students would make it easier for more students to spend more or less than four years in high school, she said. Such a program could be in place in the 2003-04 school year, she said.

Students would be identified in the eighth grade as qualifying for either the three-year or five-year high school schedule, Morgan said.

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Students on the accelerated schedule would have all of their required courses finished by the end of three years in high school. Some may have to take courses over the summer, or take high-school-level math or foreign language classes during middle school to accomplish this, she said.

After three years, those students could graduate or use their fourth year of high school to do an independent project, an internship or take college-level courses, Morgan said.

"Some parents might not want their children to graduate in three years, but this would give them more options," Morgan said.

Students probably two or more grade levels below normal in reading and/or math would be offered a five-year high school schedule, Morgan said.

After the eighth grade, those students would go to a "transition academy" where the students would focus on reading, writing and math. Most of those students would then go on to the ninth grade, she said.

"It's far better to tailor the education to the underperforming than to push them through and watch them drop out or have them graduate with minimum skills," Morgan said.

"We want graduates, whether it takes three years, four years or five years," Board of Education President Edward Forrest said.

Forrest said the School Board has not seen a formal proposal for a three- or five-year schedule for high school students.

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