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Cortez school board approves new graduation guidelines

Standards steer students toward careers
Confetti flies as the Montezuma-Cortez High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation.

Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Board of Education members voted unanimously to approve new high school graduation guidelines at their meeting Tuesday.

The new Montezuma-Cortez High School requirements will start this fall, applying to incoming freshmen at the school. The Colorado Department of Education has mandated graduation requirement changes across the state, favoring guidelines that focus on preparing students for life after high school.

M-CHS Principal Jason Wayman said the school’s new rules offer flexibility for students to explore different fields they might be interested in.

“The conversation is not to make a choice, it’s to have an idea of what you want to do and then explore that and see what it takes,” Wayman said.

The approved guidelines include eight different tracks from which students can choose one or more. The tracks steer students toward college, military or the workforce after high school. Students earn the same diploma across the board, regardless of which track they choose, Wayman said.

Students still will need to earn 23 academic credits during high school in order to graduate.

They’ll also need to compile extra items, such as a college application, before they get their diploma.

At their meeting in April, several board members questioned the guidelines, saying they locked students in too early in their high school careers. Board member Sherri Wright still had some questions about the plans, but she voted to support them.

“I’ve picked this apart, but I commend you for all this hard work,” she told Wayman at the meeting.

Wayman said students are able to change tracks throughout high school up to graduation. The final version of the guidelines also includes a “district accommodation” track, which will allow a team of advisers to decide whether to accommodate or make exceptions to the requirements based on a student’s individual needs.

Superintendent Lori Haukeness added that the student will be only one part of completing the guidelines. Teachers and administrators will help students get what they need to graduate, she said.

“The student is not responsible for doing this on their own,” she said.

New academic class offered

Also at the meeting, board members approved a new elective class that will help prepare students for advanced placement classes.

The Achievement Via Individual Determination class, or AVID, will serve about 80 students and would be offered to students in grades seven to 10, Wayman said. It will be suited for students who are Native American, students who are the first in their families to go to college and other traditionally underrepresented students who may need extra assistance, he said. The class will help students get organized and learn to take notes. Students will be prepared for the rigor of more advanced high school classes they could take in their junior or senior years in high school, Wayman said.

“This will help make a culture shift, because we need more kids in advanced classes,” he said.

The AVID class will replace the Navajo language and culture class currently offered at the middle and high schools. Three days a week will be devoted to skill building in the class, and the other two days will include tutoring and peer group problem solving, Wayman said.

Other board business

Also at the meeting, the board approved an extended 2017-2018 calendar for Manaugh Elementary School. Students will return on Aug. 14, a week before other elementary schools. Teachers will return Aug. 3, with seven staff work days before students arrive.

Manaugh Principal Donetta Jones said the new schedule got some mixed reviews from parents, but most were in favor of it.

The extra school days have been added to the schedule in an effort to improve the school, which has been accredited at a low state rating for the past five years. Manaugh improved from Colorado Department of Education’s “turnaround” accreditation status to the “priority improvement” rating last fall, according to Jones.

The school was granted a $487,000, two-year tiered intervention grant from CDE, which will fund the extended schedule and is helping the school redesign its mission and values statements, Jones said.

The board also approved a $3,468 capital reserve expense to replace three broken cafeteria tables at Mesa Elementary School.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Porter reported that there were 43 disciplinary review hearings, resulting in 18 student expulsions. He said lots of effort was being made to keep kids in school and avoid expulsions.


Graduation requirements (PDF)

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