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Cortez school board debates new grad guidelines

M-CHS backs career tracks amid concerns
Sam Green/Cortez Journal<br><br>Confetti flies as the Montezuma-Cortez High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation.

Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school district board members put proposed new high school graduation guidelines through the gauntlet at their meeting Tuesday.

The Colorado State Board of Education approved graduation guidelines in September 2015 that focus in part on preparing students for life after high school. They’re designed to give students a “menu of options” for their four years of high school, according to the Department of Education website.

Districts across the state are required to adopt guidelines that align with the state’s by this fall.

“We want to make sure graduates have more than just a high school diploma,” Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Jason Wayman told board members.

Currently, M-CHS students take at least 23 credits to graduate. Those include four in English, three each in science, social studies and math, half a credit each for physical education and health, and nine credits for electives.

Under proposed guidelines, the 23-credit requirement would stand, but incoming students would choose one of eight four-year tracks to prepare for college, military service or the workforce.

Some school board members balked at the requirements during a discussion on the subject Tuesday. The board will need to vote at a meeting on whether to adopt or reject the proposed guidelines, but they did not vote on Tuesday.

Board member Sherri Wright questioned the rigor of the guidelines.

“We’re asking a lot of our freshmen,” she said.

Later in the discussion, though, she said the more demanding requirements would help underclassmen focus more on the future.

Though students would be able to change graduation tracks at any point during their high school years, Board President Jack Schuenemeyer said he was concerned about asking students to commit to a career path.

“I worry about people getting into boxes that they can’t get out of,” he said.

Board member Pete Montano said some people will inevitably change areas of interest later in their careers, regardless of what they study in high school or college. He said his own career spanned four different areas, including welding and restaurant ownership.

Board Vice President Eric Whyte said rigorous academic programming at district elementary schools and Cortez Middle School prepared students for more demanding roles as high school students.

District Superintendent Lori Haukeness said the proposed guidelines require a “bottom-up, top-down” approach. High school students need to build up their post-graduation portfolios from the start by doing what’s required of them, she said. At the same time, teachers and administrators need to supervise students and make sure students have what they need to graduate, she said.

Wayman said no career path a student might choose would be discounted over others in the proposed guidelines. Though board members had concerns, Wayman stood by the need for the new requirements.

“We should already be doing this,” Wayman said.


Eight paths to graduation

Montezuma-Cortez High School administrators have proposed new graduation guidelines for this fall’s incoming students. If the school board votes to adopt them, students would choose one of eight tracks designed to prepare them for life after high school.

In addition to the current 23-credit requirement, students would need to gather items for an individualized career academic plan, or ICAP.

For each track, an interest inventory, post-secondary workforce goal and resume are required for the ICAP.


The SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement tracks would steer students toward college. Students on those plans would need to score at least the state minimum on the tests.

A concurrent enrollment track would help students prepare for a college or university by taking college courses during high school, earning both high school and college credit.

Students on the community or technical college track would take the Accuplacer test, which assesses reading, writing, math and computer skills.

For the five college tracks, students would need to fill out the FAFSA financial aid application and have a college acceptance letter as part of their ICAP.


Students on a military track would prepare for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, test. They also would need an armed services acceptance letter to graduate.


The industry track would help students earn a certificate for skills in a certain industry. Industry students’ ICAP would require an internship, work experience or experience in a career or technical education program, as well as a completed job application.

An eighth track, district accommodation, would allow district leaders to make exceptions for students who qualify, including students who are English learners, gifted, or have disabilities or intervention plans. A team of district leaders would vote on whether exceptions for those students are appropriate.

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